Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu updated U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday night with regard to Israel’s ongoing operation against terrorists in the Gaza Strip. During the two leaders’ telephone conversation, which was lengthy, Netanyahu thanked Biden for his unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself and emphasized that everything possible was being done to avoid harm to civilians.

Biden also spoke with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, according to Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh. The call was their first conversation since Biden took office.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also spoke with his Israeli counterpart on Saturday, expressing his support for Israel’s right to defend itself. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz thanked Lloyd for the U.S. administration’s support and emphasized Israel was doing everything it could to avoid harming innocent civilians. Israel’s objective, said Gantz, was to restore quiet in the long term.

“Five days ago, the Hamas terrorist organization fired at the Israeli capital, the results of which its senior officials and unfortunately Gaza’s residents are experiencing full well. Infrastructure Hamas saw as defensive collapsed overnight,” he said.

“Tunnels were destroyed, launchers collapsed, and hiding places of senior Hamas officials were targeted for attack. I want to emphasize: The IDF is fighting with all its force and using trickery and means that are surprising the terrorist organizations,” he said.

Gantz continued: “The State of Israel has the right and obligation to defend its citizens, and no country in the world would accept rocket fire towards its citizens. And I thank all of the leaders of countries that expressed support for Israel. I regret that there are countries and organizations that do not understand the reality as it is and instead of pressuring Hamas to stop firing, ignore its war crimes and put pressure on Israel. … While the IDF targets and hits military targets, Hamas targets citizens and hides behind its own.”

Shahar Klaiman and Lilach Shoval contributed to this report.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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