US, UK affirm Israel's right to self-defense as UNSC set to meet on Gaza

US Senator Bob Menendez, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and other officials issued statements supporting Israel's right to defend itself.

Rockets are fired by Palestinian militants into Israel, amid Israel-Gaza fighting, in Gaza, August 6, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
Rockets are fired by Palestinian militants into Israel, amid Israel-Gaza fighting, in Gaza, August 6, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)

The United States and the United Kingdom affirmed Israel's right to protect its citizens from Gaza rockets, as the United Nations Security Council prepared to meet Monday to discuss the escalation in cross-border violence between the IDF and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

"In light of the concerning developments" in Gaza the United Arab Emirates along with France, Ireland, Norway and China "called for a closed meeting to be held on Monday 8th of August," the UAE's mission tweeted on Saturday night.

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said that her country was gravely concerned by the escalating situation, deplored Palestinian civilian casualties and condemned the firing of rockets at Israel.

France "reiterates its unconditional commitment to the security of Israel," she said. It calls "on all parties to exercise restraint to avoid any further escalation, which would first and foremost affect civilian populations."

France has a permanent seat on the 15-member UNSC, as do the US and Great Britain. All three have veto power over any UNSC move.'

Rockets are launched from Gaza Strip towards Israel as it is seen from Ashkelon, Israel, August 6, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/ILAN ROSENBERG)Rockets are launched from Gaza Strip towards Israel as it is seen from Ashkelon, Israel, August 6, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/ILAN ROSENBERG)

The United States on Saturday said it stood with Israel, with a State Department spokesman explaining that the Biden administration "fully supports Israel's right to defend itself."

The spokesperson cautioned, however, "We are urging all sides to avoid further escalation."

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said on Saturday that “Israel has every right to self-defense from Iranian-backed terrorists committed to annihilating the State of Israel, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ),"

He spoke one day after the IDF launched a pre-emptive strike on Gaza, killing PIJ commander Tayseer al-Jaabar. The strike set off a weekend of intense violence in which the IDF struck terror targets in the strip to eliminate the threat from the PIJ and Palestinians launched over 400 rockets at Israel, some 15% of which landed in Gaza and never reached Israel.

At least 24 Palestinians, including six children, have been killed and 203 wounded during the two days of firing, according to the Gaza health ministry. The death toll includes those killed by failed Islamic Jihad rockets such as the four children killed in Jabalia. According to the IDF at least 12 of those killed were Islamic Jihad operatives.

'Constant vigilance'

"The malicious ideologies attacking Israel undermine US interests in the region and demand our constant vigilance."

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

Menendez called for an end to 'indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israel" and offered his condolences to the family so the "innocent whose lives have been lost as a result of the escalation in Gaza."

He explained that "the malicious ideologies attacking Israel undermine US interests in the region and demand our constant vigilance."

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, who spoke with Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Friday “underscored Israel’s right to self-defense and the enduring US commitment to Israel’s security,” according to the US Department of Defense.

“Austin urged steps to de-escalate the situation. He also expressed concern regarding reports of civilian deaths and called for a timely and thorough investigation into any civilian casualties,” the DoD stated.

Israel also received strong support from the United Kingdom. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Saturday that  "the UK stands by Israel and its right to defend itself. We condemn terrorist groups firing at civilians which have resulted in casualties on both sides. We call for a swift end to the violence."

The Palestinian envoy to the UK Husam Zomlot attacked her statement. "This is an unacceptable one-sided statement. A five-year-old child was killed by Israel’s unprovoked bombardment of Gaza yesterday. Most of the casualties are civilians. Do you condemn this? Do you condemn an illegal and belligerent occupation and blockade?"

The European Union spokesperson called for “maximum restraint” to avoid further escalation and further casualties.

“While Israel has the right to protect its civilian population, everything must be done to prevent a broader conflict – which would, first and foremost, affect the civilian populations on both sides and result in further casualties and more suffering.”

Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he was concerned about the impact of Israeli strikes on civilians and condemned the rocket fire. Coveney called for "everyone to act with restraint and reduce tensions." His country is one of 10 non-permanent UNSC members.