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Calls Mount for Gaza-Israel Cease-Fire 05/17 06:19

   U.N. Security Council diplomats and Muslim foreign ministers convened 
emergency weekend meetings to demand a stop to civilian bloodshed as Israeli 
warplanes carried out the deadliest single attacks in nearly a week of Hamas 
rocket barrages and Israeli airstrikes.

   (AP) -- U.N. Security Council diplomats and Muslim foreign ministers 
convened emergency weekend meetings to demand a stop to civilian bloodshed as 
Israeli warplanes carried out the deadliest single attacks in nearly a week of 
Hamas rocket barrages and Israeli airstrikes.

   President Joe Biden gave no signs of stepping up public pressure on Israel 
to agree to an immediate cease-fire despite calls from some Democrats for the 
Biden administration to get more involved.

   His ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told an 
emergency high-level meeting of the Security Council that the United States was 
"working tirelessly through diplomatic channels" to stop the fighting.

   But as battles between Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers surged to 
their worst levels since 2014 and the international outcry grew, the Biden 
administration -- determined to wrench U.S. foreign policy focus away from the 
Middle East and Afghanistan -- has declined so far to criticize Israel's part 
in the fighting or send a top-level envoy to the region. Appeals by other 
countries showed no sign of progress.

   Thomas-Greenfield warned that the return to armed conflict would only put a 
negotiated two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict 
even further out of reach. However, the United States, Israel's closest ally, 
has so far blocked days of efforts by China, Norway and Tunisia to get the 
Security Council to issue a statement, including a call for the cessation of 
hostilities.

   In Israel, Hady Amr, a deputy assistant dispatched by U.S. Secretary of 
State Antony Blinken to try to de-escalate the crisis, met with Israeli Defense 
Minister Benny Gantz, who thanked the U.S. for its support.

   Blinken himself headed out on an unrelated tour of Nordic countries, with no 
announced plans to stop in the Middle East in response to the crisis. He made 
calls from the plane to Egypt and other nations working to broker a cease-fire, 
telling Egypt that all parties "should de-escalate tensions and bring a halt to 
the violence."

   Rep. Adam Schiff, Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee, 
urged Biden on Sunday to step up pressure on both sides to end current fighting 
and revive talks to resolve Israel's conflicts and flashpoints with the 
Palestinians.

   "I think the administration needs to push harder on Israel and the 
Palestinian Authority to stop the violence, bring about a cease-fire, end these 
hostilities, and get back to a process of trying to resolve this long-standing 
conflict," Schiff, a California Democrat, told CBS's "Face the Nation."

   And Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, the senior Republican on the foreign 
relations subcommittee for the region, joined Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, 
the subcommittee chairman, in asking both sides to cease fire. "As a result of 
Hamas' rocket attacks and Israel's response, both sides must recognize that too 
many lives have been lost and must not escalate the conflict further," the two 
said.

   Biden focused on civilian deaths from Hamas rockets in a call with Netanyahu 
on Saturday, and a White House readout of the call made no mention of the U.S. 
urging Israel to join in a cease-fire that regional countries were pushing. 
Thomas-Greenfield said U.S. diplomats were engaging with Israel, Egypt and 
Qatar, along with the U.N.

   Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flattened three buildings and killed at 
least 42 people Sunday, medics said, bringing the toll since Hamas and Israel 
opened their air and artillery battles to at least 188 killed in Gaza and eight 
in Israel. Some 55 children in Gaza and a 5-year-old boy in Israel were among 
the dead.

   Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis in a televised 
address Sunday that Israel "wants to levy a heavy price" on Hamas. That will 
"take time," Netanyahu said, signaling the war would rage on for now.

   Representatives of Muslim nations met Sunday to demand Israel halt attacks 
that are killing Palestinian civilians in the crowded Gaza strip. Saudi Foreign 
Minister Faisal bin Farhan called on "the international community to take 
urgent action to immediately stop military operations."

   The meeting of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation also saw 
Turkey and some others criticize a U.S.-backed push under which the United Arab 
Emirates, Bahrain and other Islamic nations signed bilateral deals with Israel 
to normalize their relations, stepping over the wreckage of collapsed 
international efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians 
long-term.

   "The massacre of Palestinian children today follows the purported 
normalization," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said. t

   At the virtual meeting of the Security Council, U.N. Secretary-General 
Antonio Guterres said the U.N. was actively engaging all parties for an 
immediate cease-fire.

   Returning to the scenes of Palestinian militant rocket fire and Israeli 
airstrikes in the fourth such war between Israel and Hamas, "only perpetuates 
the cycles of death, destruction and despair, and pushes farther to the horizon 
any hopes of coexistence and peace," Guterres said.

   Eight foreign ministers spoke at the Security Council session, reflecting 
the seriousness of the conflict, with almost all urging an end to the fighting.

   Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, had thrown U.S. support solidly behind 
Israel, embracing Netanyahu as an ally in Trump's focus on confronting Iran. 
Trump gave little time to efforts by past U.S. administrations to push peace 
accords between Israel and the Palestinians, instead encouraging and rewarding 
Arab nations that signed two-country normalization deals with Israel.

   Biden, instead, calls Middle East and Central Asia conflicts a distraction 
from U.S. foreign policy priorities, including competition with China.

   He's sought to calm some conflicts and extricate the U.S. from others, 
including ending U.S. military support for a Saudi-led war in Yemen, planning 
to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and trying to return to a nuclear deal 
with Iran that Israel opposes.

 
 
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