Gaza-Israel: Joe Biden urges calm in first call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Joe Biden and Mahmoud Abbas
Joe Biden has had his first phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo credit: Getty Images

US President Joe Biden has urged calm between Israel and Gaza and affirmed his support for a two-state solution in his first phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas since taking office, the official Palestinian news agency, WAFA, said.

The conversation on Saturday (local time) came amid heavy fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip. On Friday, Biden dispatched an envoy to the region to work for calm. 

Biden told Abbas the United States "is making efforts with the concerned parties to reach the goal" of reducing violence in the region, a summary of the call published by WAFA said.

The US President also said the United States opposes the eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah, the summary said, a case that helped to ignite tension in the holy city and spark fighting between Israel and Gaza militants.

Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA) has limited-self rule in the occupied West Bank, part of territory Israel captured, along with Gaza and East Jerusalem, in the 1967 Middle East war.

But the PA exerts little influence over Gaza and its Islamist rulers Hamas, which seized control of the Palestinian enclave in 2007 after a bloody falling out with Abbas's Fatah party.

The US considers Hamas a terrorist organisation, and does not talk with the group.

Some analysts say Hamas appeared to see the escalation with Israel as an opportunity to marginalise Abbas and present itself as the guardian of Palestinians in Jerusalem, whose eastern sector they seek for a future state.