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Biden and Netanyahu discuss hostages and aid issues

Topshot Israel Palestinian Gaza Conflict

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday discussed over the phone the ongoing efforts to free hostages held in Gaza and to facilitate more aid into the Palestinian enclave.

An Israeli government official told Xinhua that the conversation focused on the hostages, approximately 100 of them are still in Gaza after being kidnapped during Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7, 2023. Additionally, the two leaders discussed Israel’s declared plan to launch a ground offensive in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, as well as the facilitation of more aid into Gaza.

According to a readout released by the White House, Biden told Netanyahu that Israel should not proceed with a military campaign in Rafah without a plan that ensures the safety of the about one million people sheltering there. Biden reaffirmed the “shared goal to see Hamas defeated,” according to the statement.

He also called for urgent steps to increase the humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza. The talk was the first time the two leaders have talked since Biden criticized Israel’s military campaign last week, describing it as “over the top.” The death toll of Palestinians from Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip has risen to 28,176 since Oct. 7, 2023, with 67,784 others being injured, the Gaza-based Health Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

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