Biden will speak with Netanyahu on Sunday, White House officials say

By Thomson Reuters Feb 11, 2024 | 10:24 AM

By Andrea Shalal

WILMINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden will speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, two White House officials said, in what will be the two leaders’ first conversation since Biden said Israel’s military response in Gaza has been “over the top.”

Biden, who is spending the weekend at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, is slated to speak with Netanyahu on Sunday morning, one of the officials said.

The Israeli prime minister told the “Fox News Sunday” program earlier on Sunday that he has not talked with Biden since his “over the top” comment on Thursday and did not know what the U.S. leader meant by it.

A source familiar with plans for the call said it would focus on efforts to free the 132 remaining Israeli hostages held by the Islamist militant group Hamas in Gaza.

Asked in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” program aired on Sunday how many Israeli hostages held in Gaza are still alive, Netanyahu said “enough to warrant the kind of efforts that we’re doing.”

Health authorities in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, estimate about 28,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the region since the conflict began in October.

Palestinian health authorities say around 70% of those killed are women or children under 18. The World Health Organization has described the Palestinian Health Ministry system for reporting casualties as “very good” and U.N. agencies regularly cite its death toll figures.

Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 Israelis and took around 250 hostages back to Gaza in an Oct. 7 assault that triggered the conflict.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Wilmington and Leah Douglas in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao)