Biden urges calm in calls with Netanyahu and Abbas

U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday spoke to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to urge calm as violence in the region escalates.

Netanyahu's office said he told Biden that Israel was doing everything to avoid harming non-combatants, including warnings to civilians to leave buildings that it was about to destroy because they contained militant targets.

The White House said Biden updated Netanyahu on "high-level" contacts with regional partners to restore calm, and raised concerns about the safety of journalists after Israel destroyed a tower block that housed news media organizations in Gaza.

Biden also spoke with Abbas for the first time since taking office. According to a White House summary, Biden "stressed the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel," and the two men "expressed their shared concern that innocent civilians, including children, have tragically lost their lives amidst the ongoing violence."

Both sides said Biden reaffirmed his support for a two-state solution to the conflict, and the White House said Biden was committed to "strengthening the U.S.-Palestinian partnership," which reached a low point under the Trump administration.

Biden has dispatched an envoy to try to quell the violence - but diplomacy has so far failed to quell the worst escalation in fighting between Israel and Palestinians since 2014.

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