May 22, 2021, 01.34 AM
Adi Vaizel looks at damage to his house after it was hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip this week, in Ashkelon, Israel, May 20, 2021. News reports said Israel's security cabinet and Hamas on Thursday had approved a tentative cease-fire. Adi Vaizel looks at damage to his house after it was hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip this week, in Ashkelon, Israel, May 20, 2021. News reports said Israel's security cabinet and Hamas on Thursday had approved a tentative cease-fire.

Hamas has fired rockets at Israeli cities from Gaza since May 10, for what it said were rights abuses committed by Israel against Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Israel retaliated with targeted artillery and airstrikes on leaders of Hamas and the group's infrastructure. The Israelis faced international condemnation for blowing up high-rise buildings and striking refugee camps and other targets, which caused extensive civilian casualties.

"We held intensive high-level discussions, hour by hour, literally," said Biden of what he called U.S. "quiet diplomacy" to reach an agreement.

The U.S. president said he had spoken with Netanyahu six times over the past 11 days as part of his administration's diplomatic efforts behind the scenes to achieve a halt in the hostilities.

Biden said he also spoke Thursday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

"I extend my sincere gratitude to President el-Sissi and the senior Egyptian officials who played such a critical role in this diplomacy," Biden said during televised remarks from the White House that lasted four minutes.

Also read: Israeli Assault Will Continue 'as Long as Needed,' Netanyahu Says

The Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank, and other Middle Eastern countries were also involved in the discussions, according to Biden.

"These hostilities have resulted in the tragic deaths of so many civilians, including children, and I send my sincere condolences to all the families, Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost loved ones, and my hope for a full recovery for the wounded," President Biden said.

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Israeli border police, in Lod, near Tel Aviv, May 13, 2021. FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Israeli border police, in Lod, near Tel Aviv, May 13, 2021.

Biden said he had spoken with Netanyahu again Thursday and commended him "for the
decision to bring the current hostilities to a close within less than 11 days. I also emphasized what I've said throughout this conflict — the United States fully supports Israel's right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel."

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