U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday evening, and stressed the need for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire in Gaza.
“The President underscored the United States’ strong condemnation of Hamas’ rocket and tunnel attacks against Israel and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself,” said a statement from the White House.
“The President also reiterated the United States’ serious and growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives, as well as the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza,” it added.
According to the statement, Obama “made clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.”
“The President reaffirmed the United States’ support for Egypt’s initiative, as well as regional and international coordination to end hostilities. The President underscored the enduring importance of ensuring Israel’s security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza’s long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority,” said the White House statement.
“The President stressed the U.S. view that, ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza,” it added.
The conversation between Obama and Netanyahu came several hours after Netanyahu made clear that Israel had rejected Hamas's request for a 24-hour truce.
The Prime Minister gave a series of interviews to Sunday news shows on U.S. channels – Fox News, NBC, CBS and CNN – in which he said, “Hamas has violated five ceasefires and humanitarian lulls that Israel has accepted, two of them in the last 24 hours, and now Hamas is violating the ceasefire that it itself offered and continues to fire at Israel.
"We will do all that is necessary to protect the security interests of the citizens of Israel,” he stated. “The IDF will continue to operate to neutralize the terror tunnels. Hamas is responsible for the deaths of civilians, which it uses as human shields.”
Hamas fired at least eleven rockets on Israel Sunday morning, despite Israel's announcement late Saturday that it would extend a humanitarian ceasefire called on Saturday until Sunday at 9:00 p.m.