Biden Talks With Allies to Stop Israel-Hamas War Spreading

(Bloomberg) -- US President Joe Biden and the leaders of France, Germany, the UK and Canada spoke on Sunday about preventing the Israel-Hamas war from spreading to the wider Middle East.

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The talks come as they step up efforts to continue to get Hamas to release more hostages held in Gaza. Israel’s supporting diplomatic attempts to ensure people are released quickly and in large numbers, meaning a ground assault on the Palestinian enclave is potentially delayed, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis are set to visit Israel on Monday, while French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to arrive Tuesday. They will be the latest of several leaders to visit in the past week, among them Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Biden spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, as well as Macron and Sunak.

“The leaders committed to continue close diplomatic coordination, including with key partners in the region, to prevent the conflict from spreading, preserve stability in the Middle East, and work toward a political solution and durable peace,” according to the UK.

They reiterated their support for Israel and calls for more aid to get into Gaza.

“The hostage issue is a very sensitive one,” Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said to Bloomberg Radio on Monday. “They’re at the top of our priorities. There’s a huge effort in order to try and bring them home as quickly as possible. The diplomatic efforts are ongoing.”

Mideast Tensions

The conflict has inflamed tensions in the Middle East, sent oil prices higher, and fanned fears Lebanon-based Hezbollah may launch a full-on attack of Israel from the north. The group, which like Hamas is backed by Iran, is already exchanging fire with Israel on a near-daily basis.

“Hezbollah is trying to constantly divert our attention from the south to the north,” Lerner said. “We need to be prepared for a broadening of the conflict.”

Hamas and Hezbollah are designated terrorist organizations by the US.

Israel’s Support for Hostage Talks May Delay Invasion of Gaza

The Israeli military has bombarded Gaza since Oct. 7, when Hamas fighters rampaged through communities in southern Israel and killed around 1,400 people. More than 4,000 Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes, according to the health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas.

Israel has urged Palestinians to move to the south of the Gaza Strip as it concentrates the bulk of its military activities around Gaza City in the north.

On Saturday, a small amount of aid — mostly food and medicine — moved into Gaza from Egypt for the first time since the war erupted. The day before, Hamas released an American woman and her mother who were abducted on Oct. 7. It’s thought to be holding around 200 others.

--With assistance from James Woolcock.

(Updates with Israeli military spokesman’s comments from the sevent paragraph.)

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