Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden both condemned rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza over the last 48 hours - each saying that “Israel has a right to defend itself.”
“I strongly condemn the rocket attacks on the citizens of southern and central Israel,” tweeted Buttigieg on Wednesday. “Israel has a right to defend itself against acts of terror that set back any progress towards peace and will only serve to inflame the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
“Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorist threats,” wrote Biden on Twitter, “It is intolerable that Israeli civilians live their lives under the constant fear of rocket attacks. That’s why our administration was such a strong supporter of Israel’s life-saving Iron Dome.”
A Monmouth University poll published Tuesday shows the South Bend, Indiana, mayor leading in the Iowa caucuses for the first time with 22 percent of the vote.
Biden lands in second place with 19 percent support, followed closely by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts with 18 percent and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont with 13 percent.
Israel has become a wedge issue of sorts in the Democratic primary as Biden and Buttigieg, while critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his vow to annex the West Bank, have staked out a more centrist position than their rivals Warren and Sanders.
Both Sanders and Warren have raised the idea of limiting U.S. aid in the event Israel moves to annex the West Bank, with Sanders going as far as suggesting some of that aid should go to the Palestinians.
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The UN Mideast envoy says negotiators are “working to urgently de-escalate” fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement Wednesday during a trip to Cairo that he was “very concerned about the ongoing and serious escalation” of hostilities.
Mladenov was to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as part of efforts to broker a ceasefire.
The heaviest round of fighting in months was triggered early Tuesday by Israel’s targeted killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza.
Israel’s military says Islamic Jihad has since fired 250 rockets from Gaza into Israel.
The death toll from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza has risen to 23 Palestinians, including a 7-year-old boy and two other minors.
The UN diplomat condemned the Islamic militant group’s attacks as “absolutely unacceptable.”