Biden Makes First Call to Abbas Amid Gaza Fighting

WASHINGTON/ RAMALLAH (Reuters) -
Then-Vice President Joe Biden meets with Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in the presidential compound in Ramallah, in 2016. (Debbie Hill/ POOL via AP)

President Joe Biden on Saturday held his first phone call with Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas since taking office, amid heavy fighting from Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

Biden has dispatched an envoy to try to quell the violence, but U.S., regional and international efforts have yet to show any signs of progress.

Biden “stressed the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel,” and the two “expressed their shared concern that innocent civilians, including children, have tragically lost their lives amidst the ongoing violence,” a summary of the call released by the White House said.

Biden also conveyed the “U.S. commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Palestinian partnership” and highlighted his administration’s recent decision to restore aid to Yehudah, Shomron and Gaza that had been cut under former President Donald Trump.

A summary of the call released by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said Biden said he opposes the eviction of Palestinians from East Yerushalayim’s Sheikh Jarrah, though the White House account of the conversation did not mention the case.

The United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization, and does not talk to the group.

Some analysts say Hamas appeared to see the escalation with Israel as an opportunity to marginalize Abbas and present itself as the guardian of Palestinians in Yerushalayim, whose eastern sector they seek for a future state.