US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to talk on Sunday, according to a spokesman for the National Security Council. The call will focus on the hostages still held in Gaza, a source familiar with the expected conversation said.
Over the last several months, the US has attempted to put more pressure on the Israeli government to support a “humanitarian pause in its war against Hamas.” But those efforts have so far yielded little success.
Last week, Netanyahu called Hamas’ recent proposals for a ceasefire and hostage deal in Gaza “delusional.”
The full Hamas response proposes three phases, each lasting 45 days, including the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, a massive humanitarian effort and freedom of movement for people throughout Gaza, according to a copy obtained by CNN.
“There is not a commitment – there has to be a negotiation, it’s a process, and at the moment, from what I see from Hamas, it’s not happening,” Netanyahu said.
Biden’s phone call with Netanyahu comes a few days after the president offered one of his sharpest rebukes to date of Israel’s military conduct in Gaza, saying the operation to go after Hamas had been “over the top.”
“I’m of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in Gaza – in the Gaza Strip – has been over the top,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Thursday, describing his own efforts to open up Gaza so more humanitarian aid could flow in.
Biden and Netanyahu last spoke over the phone on January 19.
The call also comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that negotiations toward an agreement would continue despite the Israeli prime minister’s comments, which Blinken said were referencing the “absolute non-starters” in the proposal.
Last week, Blinken also told Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials that the civilian toll in Gaza “remains too high” as violence continues in the region.
“Nearly 2 million people have been displaced from their homes. Hundreds of thousands are experiencing acute hunger. Most have lost someone that they love. And day after day, more people are killed,” Blinken said at a news conference last week after meeting with top Israeli officials.
The Israeli offensive, launched after the Hamas attack just over four months ago, has taken an immense humanitarian toll on the strip, with tens of thousands dead and the population of Gaza on the brink of famine. Officials see a cessation in fighting as central to both their short and longer-term objectives for Gaza as international and domestic US pressure to end the conflict mounts.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.