On the very day that Biden phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge de-escalation in Gaza, which the US President said would set the stage for a ceasefire with Hamas, the Israeli leader told a group of foreign ambassadors that the only solution might be to "conquer" the Gaza Strip.
"There are only two ways that you can deal with them," he said about Hamas during the Wednesday briefing held in Tel Aviv. "You can either conquer them, and that's always an open possibility, or you can deter them, and we are engaged right now in forceful deterrence, but I have to say we don't rule out anything."
He made the comments Wednesday, while separately he had received the call from President Biden wherein he was told Israel must de-escalate its military campaign "today". By all accounts that did not appear to happen as the death toll into Thursday topped 230, with over 1,700 wounded. On the Israeli side 12 of its civilians have died from rocket fire out of Gaza.
Netanyahu further seems to have positively rebuffed Biden's request, which Axios describes as follows: "Netanyahu has resisted international pressure toward a ceasefire so far. In an apparent signal that he wouldn't be rushed, Netanyahu canceled a planned Cabinet meeting on Wednesday after President Biden urged him to move towards a ceasefire."
Meanwhile Hamas leaders have been signaling that a ceasefire is already in motion and is "imminent", with the WSJ reporting Thursday that "Israel and Hamas could unveil a cease-fire as soon as Friday as negotiations make progress and the Netanyahu gov’t nears the completion of its objectives." Middle East Eye detailed:
A senior Hamas leader said on Wednesday that he expects a ceasefire between Gaza and Israel “within two days”, as the Israeli prime minister insists his campaign on the besieged enclave will continue.
Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of the political bureau of the Palestinian movement Hamas, told the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV channel that he believes “the ceasefire efforts currently underway will succeed”.
"I expect a ceasefire within a day or two," he said, without providing further details.
But as The Washington Post is now reporting Thursday morning, there are in reality "few signs" of this 'imminent' ceasefire, given the continuing ferocity of both Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rockets raining down on Israel. And Reuters confirms too that "Diplomatic moves towards a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict gathered pace on Thursday after U.S. President Joe Biden called for a de-escalation, but Israel kept up its bombardment of Gaza and Hamas rocket fire resumed after a pause."
Netanyahu has convened an urgent session of his security cabinet, set for 7pm Jerusalem time reportedly to mull the possibility of a ceasefire. But he's previously vowed to "complete all objectives" in the Gaza operation first. Furthermore, many pundits have noted the crisis has once again served to save his political future in office.
Absolutely losing my mind. Biden blocks a UN ceasefire resolution four times and lets Israel’s leveling of Gaza run its course for 11 days without any public condemnation or sanction of any kind and its spun as an unprecedented tough line. Bizzaro world https://t.co/o9Fr4e8roD— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) May 19, 2021
Axios writes additionally on what's going on behind the scenes: "The ceasefire talks are moving on two tracks: Egyptian intelligence officials are talking to Netanyahu's office and to Hamas leadership in Gaza; while UN envoy Tor Wennesland is talking to Hamas political leadership abroad," according to the report.