On Wednesday U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the Biden administration has asked the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel and Palestinian Affairs to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to de-escalate violence between the two sides after Hamas militants have fired more than 1,050 rockets at Israel in the past two days.
The Hamas rocket attacks began on Monday and by Wednesday morning the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced more than 1050 rockets had been launched at southern and central Israel. The Israeli military has also struck hundreds of Hamas targets in response.
“We’re deeply concerned about what we’re seeing there. Images that came out overnight at harrowing. The loss of any civilian life is a tragedy,” Blinken said during a Wednesday State Department press conference. “I’ve asked Deputy Assistant Secretary of State [for Israel and Palestinian Affairs] Hady Amr to go to the region immediately to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He will bring to bear his decades of experience and, in particular, he will urge on my behalf and on behalf of President Biden, de-escalation of violence.”
Blinken added, “We are very focused on this. The United States remains committed to a two-state solution. This violence takes us further away from that goal.
Blinken also said, “We fully support Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself. We’ve condemned, and I condemn again, the rocket attacks in the strongest possible terms. We believe Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live with safety and security. We’ll continue to engage with Israelis and Palestinians and other regional partners to urge de-escalation and to bring calm.”
Rockets began flying from the Gaza strip on Monday evening, setting off Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, which launches missiles to intercept incoming rockets. While the Iron Dome system has intercepted numerous incoming rockets, others have managed to land and six Israeli’s have been killed.
The IDF tweeted footage of some of the incoming rockets and its own retaliatory strikes that have taken place in “The last 48 hours in Israel.”
The IDF has also shared some videos of its military response. One video shows an IDF strike against a group purportedly planning to launch an explosive-laden drone into Israel from Gaza.
“OPERATIONAL FOOTAGE: This is the moment we targeted a terrorist squad preparing to launch an explosive UAV from Gaza into Israel,” the IDF tweeted.
According to the Jewish Telegraphing Agency, up to 55 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli counterstrikes. Those caught in the cross-fire have included children.
During his State Department remarks Thursday, a reporter asked Blinken if he believes the Israeli response has been proportional, given the reported Palestinian casualties.
“There is, first, a very clear and absolute distinction between a terrorist organization, Hamas, that is indiscriminately raining down rockets — in fact targeting civilians — and Israel’s response defending itself, that is targeting the terrorist who are raining down rockets on Israel. But whenever we see civilian casualties, and particularly when we see children caught in the crossfire losing their lives, that has a powerful impact. I think Israel has an extra burden in trying to do everything it possibly can to avoid civilian casualties even as it is rightfully responding in defense of its people.”
Blinken added, “As I said, the Palestinian people have a right to safety and security and we have to, I think, all work in that direction. So the single most important thing right now is de-escalation.”