State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday he witnessed photos of Palestinian children killed amid a barrage of rocket fire from Hamas, and a response from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and “hard not to look at those pictures and feel a sense of the suffering.”
Price, speaking at his regular press briefing, called for “restraint and de-escalation in an effort to preserve life,” according to the Times of Israel.
“Reports of civilian deaths are something that we regret and would like to come to a stop. We don’t want to see provocations,” Price said. “The provocations we have seen have resulted in a deeply lamentable loss of life.”
“We call for restraint and for calm. Israel has the right to defend itself and to respond to rocket attacks,” Price said. “The Palestinian people also have the right to safety and security, just as Israelis do.”
Hamas terrorists launched hundreds of rockets into Israel, particular areas near the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, in the late hours of Monday and early morning hours of Tuesday. The IDF responded by intercepting many of the rockets with its Iron Dome system, then launching a coordinated attack on terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. The IDF claimed its attacks killed 15 Hamas terrorists and several civilians also died during the operation, but those hit died as a result of failed attempts to fire rockets back into Israel by Hamas.
Hamas claimed to have confirmed 23 deaths in Gaza and 107 injuries. Three of the dead were children – the children referenced by Price during his briefing – which the IDF blamed Hamas rocket fire for killing.
In other remarks on Tuesday, Price said Secretary of State Antony Blinken had spoken to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his deputy Wendy Sherman had spoken to her counterpart in the Israeli government, as well.
“It was not immediately clear who he was referring to as Israel does not have a deputy foreign minister,” the Times of Israel noted.
Price also claimed the administration of President Joe Biden was in contact with unspecified Palestinian leaders.
On Tuesday night local time, Hamas rocket attacks sent civilians in Tel Aviv scrambling to reach bomb shelters as an estimated 130 rockets rained down on the city and its surroundings. Hamas openly claimed responsibility for the attacks, claiming they are retribution for the IDF operation Monday.
“Now, in fulfillment of our promise, the Al-Qassam Brigades has launched the largest missile strike on Tel Aviv and its environs, with 130 missiles, in response to the enemy’s targeting of civilian high-rises,” a statement by the jihadist organization posted on the encrypted messaging application Telegram read, according to the Times of Israel.
The current violence appears to have originated with Palestinian mob attacks last Friday, the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Israeli officials uncovered a stockpile of rudimentary weapons at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque after mob violence erupted in the city, indicating premeditated action prior to what had originally appeared to be spontaneous violence. The weapons stash included fireworks and items like rocks and stone slabs.
Asked about the violence over the weekend during his Monday briefing, Price appeared to stumble when asked to elaborate on his statement that American officials “recognize Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and to defend its people and its territory.”
“This is a very fluid situation,” Price said when asked if the “right to defend itself” included targeting Hamas outposts in Gaza. “I would hesitate to comment on operations beyond the rocket fire that is clearly targeting innocent civilians in Israel. So I would hesitate to speak to specific operations that have just occurred, but the broader principle of self-defense is something we stand by on behalf of Israel and every other country.”