Israel's Netanyahu to address US Congress on July 24: Congressional source

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted an invitation from Republican and Democratic party leaders to address lawmakers in the US Congress on July 24, a congressional source told AFP on Thursday.

The visit comes amid mounting pressure for the US ally and Hamas militants to agree to a permanent ceasefire as Israel faces growing diplomatic isolation over the rising death toll in Gaza.

Biden last week presented what he called an Israeli three-phase plan that would end the conflict, free all hostages and lead to the reconstruction of the devastated Palestinian territory without Hamas in power.

But Netanyahu’s office stressed that the war sparked by the October 7 attacks would continue until Israel’s “goals are achieved,” including the destruction of Hamas, which has not given its response to the plan.

The four party leaders in the US House and Senate asked Netanyahu last week to speak before a joint meeting of Congress in a letter voicing solidarity with Israel “in your struggle against terror, especially as Hamas continues to hold American and Israeli citizens captive.”

The visit comes after Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called in March for Israel to hold new elections in a rare example of strident criticism from a senior American official of the country’s handling of the war in Gaza.

The rebuke from Schumer, the highest-ranking elected Jewish American in history, came amid expressions of dismay from progressive Democrats who have condemned Netanyahu over his handling of the military response and vowed to snub the right-wing leader’s speech.

The war was sparked when Hamas attacked Israel, resulting in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 251 hostages, 120 of whom remain in Gaza, including 41 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory military offensive has killed at least 36,654 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

A Gaza hospital said Thursday at least 37 people had been killed in an Israeli strike on a UN-run school that the Israeli military alleged housed a Hamas compound.

US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators have resumed talks aimed at securing a truce and hostage-prisoner swap in the nearly eight-month war.

But the nation has faced a mounting diplomatic chill, with international court cases accusing it of war crimes and several European countries recognizing a Palestinian state.

US media reported on Monday that Netanyahu had agreed to visit on June 13, but his office told Israeli media the date had “not been finalized” and would not be on that date because it interferes with a Jewish holiday.


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