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behind the scenes

Biden is reportedly encouraging Netanyahu to wind down airstrikes in Gaza

President Biden, facing calls from Democrats to push harder for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, has been privately encouraging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to start slowing down the airstrikes in Gaza, a person with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Administration officials are having the same conversations with other high-ranking Israeli officials, the person said, letting them know that after nine days of fighting, it is in their best interest to begin winding down the military operation.

Israeli officials say the airstrikes in Gaza are targeting Hamas in an attempt to degrade its military capabilities; in return, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel. At least 213 Palestinians and 12 Israelis have been killed since the conflict began.

On Monday, the White House said Biden called Netanyahu and expressed his support of a ceasefire. A person familiar with the discussions taking place between the U.S. and Israel told AP that the White House believes its best course of action is to avoid making public demands and instead focus on privately pressuring Israel to stop the airstrikes. Israel has indicated its military campaign could end in a few days, the person added.

While speaking to reporters on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden has been "doing this long enough ... to know sometimes diplomacy has to happen behind the scenes."