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No word on whether Biden, Netanyahu to meet in Washington

JACK GUEZ/POOL VIA REUTERS / JUNE 8
                                Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Centre, in Ramat Gan amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the militant group Hamas.
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JACK GUEZ/POOL VIA REUTERS / JUNE 8

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Centre, in Ramat Gan amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANTZ / JUNE 8 
                                FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at a state dinner held in his honor by French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured), at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France.
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REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANTZ / JUNE 8

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at a state dinner held in his honor by French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured), at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France.

JACK GUEZ/POOL VIA REUTERS / JUNE 8
                                Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Centre, in Ramat Gan amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the militant group Hamas.
REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANTZ / JUNE 8 
                                FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at a state dinner held in his honor by French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured), at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France.

PARIS >> The White House declined to say on Sunday whether President Joe Biden will meet Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister visits Washington next month to address the U.S. Congress.

“I don’t have anything to announce today,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” adding the two men were in regular communication.

“He’s coming to address the Congress. The president talks to him all the time,” Sullivan said. Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on July 24. Biden has been a staunch supporter of Israel in its war with Hamas in Gaza, but there have been tensions between the two men over how Israel is conducting the war.

Biden, who is running for re-election in November, has faced criticism over his support for Israel from his left-leaning political base as the Palestinian death toll mounts from Israel’s assault.

Sullivan said he hoped a ceasefire and hostage deal would be in place that by the time Netanyahu came to Washington. Hamas must simply say “yes” to the proposal on the table, he said. Biden has welcomed the rescue by Israeli forces of four hostages held by Hamas and vowed to keep working until all hostages were released and a ceasefire achieved.

Sullivan did not say whether the United States had provided intelligence support to Israel in the hostage rescue or comment on how the operation might affect Hamas embracing a ceasefire agreement.

“The fact is that the whole world is looking to Hamas to say yes,” he said. “For all those people, for all these months who have been calling for a ceasefire now is the moment.”

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” program, Sullivan said the United States did not know how many Palestinians died in the rescue. Gaza’s health ministry said 274 Palestinians were killed while Israel’s military said it knew of under 100 Palestinians killed, though not how many of these were fighters or civilians.

Asked if Washington would back similar future Israeli rescue operation even if such numbers of Palestinian civilians died, Sullivan replied: “The United States will support Israel in taking steps to try to rescue hostages.”

He also said Washington would keep urging Israel to minimize civilian casualties.

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