WASHINGTON – The United States issued a message of support for Israel on Monday amid an onslaught of rockets on its south, condemning “the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations” in the Gaza Strip.
“We support Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, while calling for restraint.
The focus of the call "was on reiterating our concern about escalating tensions," Psaki said, adding that "more needs to be done" on both sides to calm the crisis.
But the message, consistent with previous US responses after rocket barrages from either Lebanon or Gaza, was coupled with a strong urge of restraint against escalating the conflict. The Obama administration fears a wider Israeli military campaign against Hamas in Gaza might destabilize political control in the Palestinian Authority, with riots in the West Bank reminding many of past intifadas.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu this weekend, reiterating Washington’s concern over an escalation in the conflict – exacerbated by the murders of Israeli and Palestinian teenagers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Since that weekend call, more than 90 projectiles have been fired from the coastal Palestinian territory into Israeli towns. One Israeli has been reported injured.
“We look to both the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take all necessary steps to prevent acts of violence, bring perpetrators to justice, and protect the innocent,” State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez added. “We are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides - in Israel and in Gaza - and urge the protection of civilians.”