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Joe Biden calls for ‘significant de-escalation’ in Gaza conflict

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Joe Biden has called for a “significant de-escalation” in the fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, during a phone call with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

That’s according to the White House, which said Biden asked Netanyahu to move “toward the path to a cease-fire.”

Biden has been under some pressure to act since fighting broke out on 10 May, with more than 200 people so far killed, the majority on the Palestinian side.

Until Wednesday the US president has avoided publicly pushing his country’s Middle East ally for a cease-fire, instead relying on what officials described as “quiet, intensive” diplomacy.

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The US was the only country to vote down an earlier UN Security Council statement that would have addressed a cease-fire.

Meanwhile fighting goes on in the war that broke out following clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in Jerusalem last Monday.

On Wednesday morning Israeli airstrikes killed at least six people across the Gaza Strip and destroyed the home of an extended family.

The military said it widened its strikes in the Palestinian territory’s south to blunt continuing rocket fire from Hamas, while a separate barrage also came from Lebanon.

Israel said it hit 40 underground targets, part of a military tunnel network. Gaza’s Health Ministry said a woman was killed and eight people were wounded in those strikes.

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Among the six killed Wednesday were also two people who died when warning missiles crashed into their apartment.

The fighting broke out when Hamas militants fired a barrage of rockets at Israel on May 10, prompting airstrikes from the Israeli military.

Netanyahu has said Israel hopes to restore quiet “quickly” but did not exclude the possibility of further escalation.

“You can either conquer them, and that’s always an open possibility, or you can deter them,” he told foreign ambassadors. “We are engaged right now in forceful deterrence, but I have to say, we don’t rule out anything.”

Military officials, meanwhile, claimed a mysterious explosion that killed eight members of a Palestinian family on the first day of the fighting was caused by a misfired rocket from Gaza.

“This wasn’t an Israeli attack,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman.

At least 219 Palestinians have been killed in the current fighting, including 63 children and 36 women, with 1,530 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians.

Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed.

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