President Joe Biden takes a break while speaking in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, United States on Monday, May 10, 2021.
Chris Kleponis | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Deadly violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip intensified Friday as President Joe Biden called for the worst fighting since 2014 to be de-escalated.
“Palestinians – including in Gaza – and Israelis alike deserve to live in dignity, security and security. No family should fear for their safety in their own home or in their place of worship,” the president said in a statement on Friday on the occasion of the Eid holiday and the end of Ramadan.
Israeli forces bombed and sent troops and tanks to the Gaza border after militants fired more rockets into Israeli cities.
At least 119 people, including 31 children, were killed, according to officials in Gaza. Eight people were killed in Israel, including a soldier and some civilians, in air and rocket strikes between the Israeli military and the Hamas militant group that governs the Gaza Strip.
It was the worst outbreak of violence between Israel and the Palestinians since the Gaza war in 2014.
“We think most of the children in these societies who are trauma from a conflict that is far beyond their control,” said Biden. The president added that he would continue to involve Palestinians, Israelis and other regional partners to address the situation.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a briefing Friday that the government was working to de-escalate the conflict. “We are watching this closely, we will remain closely committed,” she said. “Much of the conversations we have may be behind the scenes.”
“Israel has the right to self-defense,” continued Psaki. “We continue to focus on using every lever available to us to de-escalate the situation on the ground.” She added that US humanitarian aid to Palestinians will continue.
The dramatic escalation followed protests against the possible expulsion of Palestinian families from a neighborhood in East Jerusalem by the Israeli Supreme Court. In Jerusalem last Friday, Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinians’ thrown stones near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, before a trial on Monday in the event of an eviction.
A picture shows the explosion after an Israeli strike against a building in Gaza City on May 14, 2021.
Mahmud Hams | AFP | Getty Images
As tensions increased, the Supreme Court delayed the hearing on the right-wing Israeli case. Monday was also the anniversary of the retaking of East Jerusalem by Israel in the 1967 war and the Muslim observance of Ramadan.
Israel said it would send troops to the Gaza border before a possible ground invasion of the area after four days of ongoing cross-border conflict. In addition to Hamas’ rocket strikes on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities and Israeli air strikes on Gaza, Jewish and Arab mobs clashed on the streets of several Israeli cities this week, resulting in dozens of arrests.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in a televised address that the escalating conflict had embroiled Israel in two fighting campaigns – in Gaza and in Israeli cities – and reiterated his promise to use armed forces to combat violence in the cities.
Streaks of light are seen as Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepts missiles launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip, seen from Ashkelon, Israel, May 12, 2021.
Amir Cohen | Reuters
“I again urge the citizens of Israel not to take the law into their own hands. Anyone who does this will be severely punished,” said Netanyahu. “We will act with full force against enemies from outside and lawbreakers from within in order to restore calm in the state of Israel.”
Netanyahu also thanked Biden and other world leaders on Friday and vowed that Israel “will continue to crack down on Hamas”. “It’s not over yet,” he said. “We will do everything we can to restore the security of our city and our citizens.”
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A ground invasion of Gaza has not yet been announced. Some world leaders and lawmakers have condemned the violence and called for de-escalation to avoid spiraling into all-out war.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin pushed for “senseless civil war” amid urban unrest. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an “immediate de-escalation and cessation of hostilities” in the region.
“Too many innocent civilians have already died,” Guterres wrote in a tweet. “This conflict can only exacerbate radicalization and extremism across the region.”
The Palestinians are assessing the damage caused by Israeli air strikes on May 14, 2021 in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip.
Mahmud Hams | AFP | Getty Images
Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee, has called for a ceasefire as soon as possible to prevent further civilian deaths.
“Ground operations will not stop the missiles falling on Israel or resolve the fundamental security challenges Israel is facing,” Murphy said in a statement Thursday. “Only a short-term ceasefire and a real path to a viable long-term future with two states can do this.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed Wednesday that the US is sending the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel and Palestinian Affairs to urge Israelis and Palestinians to de-escalate the violence.
The U.S. State Department on Thursday also raised its travel advice for Israel, citing armed conflict and civil unrest and urging people not to travel to Gaza because of Covid-19 and conflict.
– Reuters and Associated Press contributed to the coverage
Israeli artillery soldiers gather near the Israeli-Gaza border on the Israeli side on May 14, 2021.
Amir Cohen | Reuters