US President Joe Biden said Israel “has a right for defending itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory” as violence escalates. Biden made the remarks to reporters after speaking by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding he hopes the ongoing conflict “will be closing down sooner than later.”
During his call with Netanyahu, the US president Biden “conveyed the United States’ encouragement of a pathway toward restoring a sustainable calm,” and “conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians,” the White House said in a statement.
“He condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,” it said. “He shared his conviction that Jerusalem, a city of such importance to people of faith from around the world, must be a place of peace.”
Tensions have been running high since an Israeli court last week ordered the eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, leading to Palestinian protests and Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians, including worshippers at the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The mosque is the third holiest in Islam. Additionally, heavy damage has been recorded across Gaza’s residential areas, including the leveling of multi-story buildings.
On the other side, Secretary of State Antony Blinken also reached out to the Palestinian president and announced he was sending a State Department official to the region, Politicio website recorded.
After days of staying quiet amid escalating tensions and increasing pressure from even some fellow Democrats, Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Blinken also spoke to Netanyahu, while Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz.
Separately, national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with top Qatari officials in the hopes that they could help deescalate the situation.
Since taking office, Biden has sought to deemphasize focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in favor of other national security interests. But that posture has drawn increased criticism from activists and some members of Congress
in recent days, with activists in particular questioning Biden’s silence and urging the administration to get more involved.
In his call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Blinken expressed condolences for the lives, but “condemned the rocket attacks and emphasized the need to deescalate tensions,” according to a readout of the call. It was Blinken’s first call with Abbas since the former became secretary of State.
President Joe Biden said, "Israel has the right to defend itself." 🇮🇱 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/zoPVFrGF41— Israel on Campus Coalition (@IsraelCampus) May 12, 2021
While some social media activists remind him his past speeches and told him to give your land to Israel
Biden is not known to have spoken to the Palestinian leader since taking over the presidency.
Blinken said that he is sending Hady Amr, a deputy assistant secretary of State, to the region to try to help defuse the crisis. Some leading activists said the situation remains unpredictable.
“U.S. engagement at a time like this is desperately needed,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a left-leaning pro-Israel group. He said, “This conflict can’t go untended.
The United States has to be party that manages this conflict. Without it, the fires will continue to burn.” The latest conflagration erupted earlier this week after simmering for a few weeks.
Disputes between Israelis and Palestinians over access to holy sites in Jerusalem — as well as Palestinian frustration over attempts by Israeli settlers to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in east Jerusalem — have driven clashes.
Hamas escalated the conflict when it began launching rockets at Jerusalem. Israel has responded with airstrikes. There have also been reports of scattered incidents of mob violence by both sides.
The hostilities between the two countries are the worst since 2014 and have shown little sign of abating.
The violence has overlapped with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as well as a politically precarious time for Netanyahu, who faces legal problems and was unable to recently form a government after Israel’s fourth election in two years.
Moreover, Palestinians face their own political turmoil. Abbas recently postponed what would have been the first Palestinian elections in 15 years.
There were concerns in some corners that Hamas-linked candidates would do well, though Abbas blamed Israel, saying it wasn‘t clear if Palestinians in east Jerusalem would be allowed to vote.
It should be mentioned that Blinken made his remarks to reporters as he unveiled the State Department‘s annual religious freedom report, which assesses the climate in nearly 200 countries.
The report put out covers 2020, and, unsurprisingly, the impact of Covid-19 — which precipitated extraordinary restrictions on religious life and other mass gatherings — permeates the document.
The report was particularly tough on China and its treatment of Uyghur Muslims, which the state Department labeled “genocide” in late January as one of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s final acts in office. As part of the report’s rollout, Blinken announced visa restrictions on Yu Hui, a former Chinese official accused of “gross violations of human rights,” particularly regarding members of the Falun Gong movement. Some groups are waiting for Blinken to warn and accuse Israel of a similar action due to the ongoing Palestinian conflict.
Furthermore, Moscow calls on the parties to the Palestinian Israeli conflict to refrain from any steps that can be fraught with the escalation of the violation,
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
According to her, the situation in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip is extremely explosive. “Moscow is seriously concerned over these dangerous developments. We strongly condemn attacks on civilians regardless of their ethnic or religious identity. We call on the parties to show restraint and refrain from steps fraught with further escalation of tension.
We think it essential to observe the status quo concerning Jerusalem’s holy sites committed to paper in the Jordanian Israeli peace treaty as well as United Nations resolutions on this city,” she said.
She stressed that Moscow would continue efforts towards lasting and comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli settlement. “As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and a member of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators and in cooperation with regional and international sides,
The old statement of Biden in UNGA
Joe Biden "If I were a Jew I'd be a Zionist, my father pointed out I didn't need to be a jew to be a zionist. For I am. Israel is essential"— 🇵🇸ⵣ #SaveSheikhJarrah Ⓐ 🚩🏴 (@duneprince) May 9, 2021
This is the president of the United States. pic.twitter.com/tHVbeAl6VB
Russia will do its best to achieve comprehensive and lasting settlement inline with the UN Security Council resolutions envisaging the establishment of two states – Palestine and Israel coexisting in peace and security,” she added. De-escalation of the Palestine-Israel conflict is “an absolute must,” said the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, declaring that the mounting death toll, including children, was totally unacceptable.
The Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Henrietta Fore, said that at least 14 children in Palestine and one child in Israel have been reportedly killed since May 11.
She noted that another 95 children in Gaza and the West Bank – including East Jerusalem – and three children in Israel have reportedl been injured in the past five days. “The situation is at a dangerous tipping point. The level of violence and its impact on children is devastating. We are on the brink of a full-scale war.
In any war, children – all children – suffer first and suffer most. She urged all sides to “protect all civilians especially children, to spare essential civilian infrastructure from attacks, and to end violations against children.”