Biden, Netanyahu hold call amid Israel-Gaza ceasefire talks

Biden, Netanyahu hold call amid Israel-Gaza ceasefire talks
Biden and Netanyahu held a call to discuss talk of a potential ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas, as well as Israel's blockade of aid into Gaza.
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Biden and Netanyahu talked as it emerged Hamas reps will travel to Egypt tomorrow to decide on an Israeli counter-proposal for a truce [Getty]

US President Joe Biden spoke with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone Sunday and "reviewed ongoing talks" to free hostages held in Gaza, the White House said.

The two allies "reviewed ongoing talks to secure the release of hostages together with an immediate ceasefire in Gaza," the White House statement said, as diplomatic efforts intensified to reach a long-sought truce in the war-battered region.

The Israeli government has come under intense pressure from its global allies to reach a ceasefire, as well as from protesters within Israel demanding the release of hostages seized by Hamas during its surprise attack on 7 October.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been trying to mediate a new truce for months.

Biden and Netanyahu "also discussed increases in the delivery of humanitarian assistance into Gaza including through preparations to open new northern crossings starting this week," the statement said.

"The President stressed the need for this progress to be sustained and enhanced in full coordination with humanitarian organizations," it said.

With humanitarian agencies sounding ever more dire warnings of a crisis in Gaza, Israel has come under increasing pressure -- globally and from the United States specifically -- to allow more aid into the territory.

Israel has been accused by human rights agencies and UN experts of deliberately blocking the delivery of aid, food, and fuel into Gaza, while impeding humanitarian assistance and depriving civilians of the means to survive, which is a war crime according to international law. 

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Biden also "reiterated his clear position" on any Israeli assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the statement said.

Netanyahu has vowed to send troops into Rafah, where more than 1.5 million civilians have taken refuge.

The Biden administration, while backing Israel, has repeatedly voiced alarm over the heavy toll on civilians in the Gaza offensive and has pressed Israel to hold off on any Rafah assault.