It was another night of rockets pounding Israeli with civilians hunkered down in bomb shelters. The Biden administration responded late Tuesday.
The terrorist organization Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip, continued the barrage of rockets which has elicited targeted Israeli military response.
The Biden Administration on Tuesday condemned rocket attacks on its ally, four days after rockets began to fall. Over 1,000 have been launched by Hamas from Gaza according to Israeli Defense Force numbers.
Foreign policy experts say the American administration is partly to blame for the escalation of tensions after a tepid response to Palestinian aggression since the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat and condemned ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, according to the White House statement.
But at Tuesday’s press conference, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that President Joe Biden had “directed his team to engage intensively with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, as well as leaders throughout the Middle East” to communicate a “clear and consistent message in support of de-escalation.”
Rockets are being fired on #TelAviv and central Israel!
This is not a drill, this is not a rehearsal.
— Embassy of Israel (@IsraelinUSA) May 11, 2021
In a surprise statement, Psaki said Israel had a right to defend itself against the barrage.
“The President’s support for Israel’s security, for its legitimate right to defend itself, and its people is fundamental and will never waver. We condemn ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem,” Psaki said. “We also stand against extremism that has inflicted violence on both communities. Jerusalem, a city of such importance to people of faith around the world, must be a place of coexistence. It is up to the officials, residents, and leaders to restore the city to a place of calm.”
“He conveyed the President’s unwavering support for Israel’s security and for its legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians. He also conveyed the United States’ encouragement of steps toward restoring a sustainable calm,” the statement reads.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price announced in a statement that Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi—the first time the two diplomats have spoken since April even as tensions between Israel and Hamas increased. Blinken “expressed his concerns regarding rocket attacks on Israel and his condolences for the lives lost as a result,” Price said.
“The Secretary and the Foreign Minister also discussed the violence in Jerusalem, in particular on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah. The Secretary reiterated his call on all parties to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence, which has claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children,” he said.
“The Secretary emphasized the need for Israelis and Palestinians to be able to live in safety and security, as well as enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy. Foreign Minister Ashkenazi and Secretary Blinken acknowledged the steadfast partnership between the United States and Israel, and committed to working together on challenges ahead.”
Israel is attempting to strategically target Hamas launch pads and its military hierarchy but the strikes have been difficult. Hamas places its rocket launch sites in schoolyards. The Israeli response has resulted in unattended civilian deaths. Hamas, on the other hand, randomly aims its missiles at civilian populations with no regard for civilian deaths.
Former President Donald Trump also issued a statement following the attacks in which he said, “America must always stand with Israel and make clear that the Palestinians must end the violence, terror, and rocket attacks, and make clear that the U.S. will always strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself.”
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has been providing updates about the situation on social media. In its latest post, officials said over 1000 rockets had been fired at Israel within a 38 hour period.
“This. Must. Stop,” they wrote in a statement posted at 8.43 a.m. local time Wednesday on Twitter.
In an earlier update, the group wrote, “Terrorists in Gaza are firing rockets non-stop as civilians in central and southern Israel spend their night in shelters to protect themselves from rocket fire.” They said that families had been woken up at around 3 a.m. and rushed to bomb shelters.
In another update at 4:37 a.m. local time Wednesday, IDF said that it had experienced hundreds of rockets within the last 24 hour period and responded by striking “terror targets and terror operatives” across the Gaza Strip.
“We are currently striking more terror targets in Gaza,” IDF said.
Late on Tuesday, the group said that one of the rockets fired from Gaza toward Tel Aviv and central Israel had “exploded on a civilian bus” and shared an image of the incident.
“Hamas’ intentions are clear: kill Israeli civilians,” the IDF said. “We won’t stand by and let this happen.”
One multi-story residential building in Gaza collapsed and another was heavily damaged, according to reports.