The White House declined to say on Friday if President Joe Biden believes Israel is over-reacting as it escalates its military offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip.
Spokeswoman Jen Psaki was repeatedly pressed by a reporter on Biden’s thinking after he said on Thursday “there has not been a significant over-reaction” from Israel to Palestinian rockets attacks emanating from Gaza.
Since then, Israel has ramped up its heavy bombardment of the densely-populated coastal enclave, leveling entire multi-story residential buildings and prompting about 10,000 Palestinians to flee their homes amid the unrelenting campaign, according to the UN.
At least 122 Palestinians, including 31 children and 20 women, have been killed, and 900 others injured in the ongoing offensive, according to the Palestinian health officials.
To date, nine Israelis have been killed in the recent violence — eight of them in rocket attacks in addition to a soldier who was killed when an anti-tank guided missile struck his jeep.
While Psaki declined to comment on whether Biden has changed his assessment on Israel’s military offensive since Thursday, she noted Biden “believes Israel has a right to self-defense,” but maintained the ongoing loss of civilian lives is “incredibly tragic.”
“What’s happening on the ground, the loss of life, the loss of children’s lives, the loss of family members’ lives, whether its Palestinian lives or Israeli lives, is incredibly tragic,” she said. “It’s horrific to watch. That is certainly why our focus is on de-escalating what is happening on the ground.”
Tensions began to foment earlier in May as an Israeli court approved the expulsions of dozens of Palestinians from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. A hearing on the case has since been delayed by Israel’s Supreme Court.
But tensions have been exacerbated by repeated raids on Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest in Islam, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Israel launched airstrikes on Gaza beginning on Monday after Palestinian groups launched rockets into Israel in retaliation for the planned removals in East Jerusalem and crackdown in Al-Aqsa. Israel’s offensive has since expanded as unrest has enveloped the whole of Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
At least 10 Palestinians were killed and 500 others injured in the West Bank on Friday amid popular demonstrations against attacks on Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the whole of the West Bank following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and annexed the entire city of Jerusalem in 1980 — a move that has never been recognized by the international community.
Source: Anadolu Agency