WASHINGTON: U.S. President Joe Biden (pix) on Saturday expressed concerns about the escalating conflict in separate phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Xinhua News Agency reported Biden had voiced concerns about violent confrontations in the West Bank and “shared his grave concern about the intercommunal violence across Israel,“ according to a White House readout of Biden’s call with Netanyahu.

He also raised concerns about “the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection,“ likely referring to an airstrike carried out by the Israeli military earlier in the day that destroyed a building housing international news organisations in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and others in Gaza,“ said the readout.

Biden also held his first phone conversation with Abbas since he took office, in which he conveyed “the U.S. commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Palestinian partnership.”

The two leaders discussed current tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank and expressed their shared concern about the loss of civilian lives in the ongoing violence, the White House said in a separate readout. Biden emphasised to Abbas the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel.

Biden voiced his support for the two-state solution in speaking with both leaders.

The phone calls came amid escalating violence between the Israeli security forces and Palestinian fighters.

Israeli fighter jets on Saturday bombed and demolished Jala Tower, a high-rise building in Gaza City housing Al-Jazeera TV and Associated Press (AP) offices as well as residential apartments.

The building “contained military assets belonging to the intelligence offices of Hamas,“ said an Israeli military spokesperson in a statement.

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement that “we are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organisations in Gaza.” “We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,“ he said.

“A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully, we were able to evacuate them in time.”

The ongoing conflict was the worst violence between Israel and the besieged Palestinian enclave since 2014. -Bernama