VIENNA -- The Obama administration and leadership in Congress from both parties publicly supported Israel's continued operation in Gaza on Thursday, with all parties urging caution while reinforcing that Israel's military actions, thus far, fall within the country's right to defend itself against Hamas terrorism.
"I would remind you who is at fault here, and that is Hamas," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday, facing a series of accusatory questions from a Palestinian journalist for al-Quds TV in Washington.
Israeli military activity— targeting infrastructure and known terrorist operatives, taking practiced precautions to forewarn Palestinian civilians in advance of an air strike— differ fundamentally from Hamas tactics, Psaki continued: "indiscriminately" firing projectiles, without precision, in the general direction of populated civilian areas.
Congress, too, asserted on Thursday that Hamas' actions constitute "unprovoked" terrorism, and not a right of Palestinians to defend themselves.
"There is no moral equivalency between the self-defense actions of Israel and the barbaric actions of Hamas," Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), said on Thursday. Along with Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Graham is now proposing a resolution that would "reaffirm the United States’ support for Israel’s right to defend its citizens" and "ensure the survival" of the Israeli state.
The resolution also calls on the Palestinian Authority, funded in large part by Congress, to end its unity government with Hamas, and condemns the firing of hundreds of rockets at Israel as "unprovoked."
“Israel is entitled to take the steps necessary to protect itself from destructive rocket attacks from Hamas that are aimed at all Israeli civilians, regardless of their religion,” said Schumer. “This resolution supports Israel as it protects itself in a manner that values the safety of Palestinian civilians even as its own civilians face indiscriminate attacks from terrorists."
Consistent rocket fire from Gaza began before three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed
in the West Bank. US and Israeli intelligence agencies Hamas was involved in the act, which shook the Israeli populace.
Discovery of their bodies prompted mass protests, and the revenge killing of an Arab teen in Jerusalem
, which further deepened the crisis.
Psaki and Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor faced a barrage of aggressive questions from an Al Jazeera anchor on Thursday afternoon, as the parties and their sympathizers on both sides of the conflict waged in a public relations war on the airwaves.
In the interviews, Prosor and Psaki were asked if they knew how many children had so far died in Gaza from air strikes, and how many more would Israel kill before it ended its operation.
Psaki sent condolences on behalf of the US government to the families with lost loved ones, noting Israel's efforts to forewarn civilians.
Asked whether the US had taken a position on a prospective Israeli military ground invasion into Gaza, Psaki replied that such an outcome was "no one's preference."