State Dept. backtracks on harsh condemnation of UN school shelling

After being accused of "hypocrisy" regarding "collateral damage," State Dept. spokeswoman says Israel must "keep itself to a high standard."

UNRWA school damaged by fighting in Gaza (photo credit: REUTERS)
UNRWA school damaged by fighting in Gaza
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki clarified  on Monday her comments on the Israeli shelling of a UN school made on Sunday, tempering what was unprecedented criticism of its close ally Israel in calling its actions "appalling" and "disgraceful."
Psaki reiterated that regarding the striking of terrorist operatives, "there’s more that Israel can do to prevent civilian casualties," but she did not repeat the harsh language used to condemn the attack in a previous statement.
Her latest comments were made during a Monday night press briefing, during which a reporter asked whether it wasn't "hypocritical" to condemn Israel for causing "collateral damage" in its mission to defeat dangerous militants when the United States has also harmed innocent civilians in its drone strikes in Afghanistan and other Middle East locations.
Psaki replied that "we [the US] hold ourselves to a high standard, and we’ve had to keep ourselves to a high standard over time, and Israel should do the same."
On Sunday, the State Department condemned Israel following an IDF strike that hit just outside a UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering over 3,000 displaced Palestinians.
"The United States is appalled," the statement read. "The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces."
Ten civilians, including children, reportedly died in the attack.
"Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties," Psaki continued. "The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians."
Michael Wilner contributed to this report.