US, UK & allies extend support to Israel while urging it to uphold humanitarian laws
Washington | Leaders of the US, the UK, France, Canada and Italy extended support to Israel's right to defend itself against the Palestinian militant group Hamas but urged the Jewish state to uphold international humanitarian laws and protect civilians.
A joint statement was issued on Sunday by the White House after US President Joe Biden initiated a call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the UK.
"The leaders reiterated their support for Israel and its right to defend itself against terrorism and called for adherence to international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians," the joint statement said.
The latest conflict was triggered by unprecedented attacks against Israel by Hamas militants on October 7. Israel has launched a massive counter-offensive against the Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza since 2007.
Welcoming the release of the two American hostages-- a mother and her teenage daughter-- on Saturday, the leaders called for the immediate release of all remaining hostages. They also committed to close coordination to support their nationals in the region, particularly those wishing to leave Gaza.
The leaders welcomed the announcement of the first humanitarian convoys reaching Palestinians in Gaza. They also committed to continued coordination with partners in the region to ensure sustained and safe access to food, water, medical care, and other assistance required to meet humanitarian needs.
They "committed to continue close diplomatic coordination, including with key partners in the region, to prevent the conflict from spreading, preserve stability in the Middle East, and work toward a political solution and durable peace," the statement said.
Earlier in the day, Biden spoke with Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to discuss developments in Gaza and the surrounding region.
During the call, Biden welcomed the entry of the two convoys of humanitarian assistance in Gaza, the first two since the conflict began following attacks by Hamas on Israel.
The two leaders affirmed a continued flow of critical assistance into Gaza.
Biden also appreciated Israel's support in helping accommodate the release of two American hostages.
"The leaders discussed ongoing efforts to secure the release of all the remaining hostages taken by Hamas including US citizens and to provide for safe passage for US citizens and other civilians in Gaza who wish to depart," the White House said.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris also received a briefing on Sunday on the latest developments in Israel and Gaza from their national security team, which was attended by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and others, the White House said.