A senior American diplomat is headed to the Middle East to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders “to urge de-escalation and to bring calm,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken mentioned on Wednesday amid mounting violence.
Speaking at the State Department in Washington, Mr. Blinken repeatedly affirmed Israel’s proper to defend itself from rocket assaults from Hamas, the Islamist militant group that runs the Gaza Strip.
“There is, first, a very clear and absolute distinction between a terrorist organization, Hamas, that is indiscriminately raining down rockets, in fact, targeting civilians, and Israel’s response, defending itself,” Mr. Blinken mentioned.
But he additionally mentioned Israel “has an extra burden” to strive to stop civilian deaths, noting that Palestinian kids have been killed in Israeli strikes.
“Whenever we see civilian casualties and, particularly, when we see children caught in the crossfire, losing their lives, that has a powerful impact,” mentioned Mr. Blinken, sounding anguished. He added: “The Palestinian people have the right to safety and security, and we have to, I think, all work in that direction.”
Mr. Blinken mentioned he was deploying Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, to meet with leaders from either side in coming days. Mr. Amr was anticipated to depart Washington later Wednesday for the area.
At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III additionally supplied “ironclad support” for Israel’s proper to self-defense throughout a dialog earlier Wednesday with Israel’s protection chief, Benny Gantz.
A readout of their speak, issued by John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, mentioned Mr. Austin had condemned the rocket assaults by Hamas, and urged calm amongst all events, however didn’t point out the matter of casualties amongst Palestinian civilians.
President Biden took office this year with little curiosity in pursuing an Israel-Palestinian peace settlement, given the failure by earlier presidents from each events to foster an enduring accord. But the newest outbreak of violence has prompted rising calls from inside the Democratic Party for Mr. Biden to play a extra lively position.
The Biden administration has endorsed of a two-state resolution however, specialists mentioned, has made little effort to push the events towards one.
“The problem with the Middle East,” mentioned Martin S. Indyk, a particular envoy for Israel-Palestinian negotiations throughout the Obama administration, “is that you can try to turn your back on it, but it won’t turn its back on you.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Blinken repeated anew that the United States stays dedicated to a two-state resolution. “This violence takes us further away from that goal,” he mentioned.
Mr. Blinken later said he had spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to reinforce his message. “It’s vital now to de-escalate,” Mr. Blinken mentioned on Twitter.
Michael Crowley contributed reporting.