WASHINGTON – The United States on Monday strongly condemned the rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel, describing it as an "unacceptable escalation."
Prior to meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States is "deeply concerned" both about the rocket attacks from Gaza "that need to stop immediately," and the "violence, provocative actions in and around the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount."
He added, "That violence needs to cease. All sides need to de-escalate, reduce tensions, take practical steps to calm things down." Though the United States appreciates Israel's rerouting of the contentious Flag Day march and the decision to postpone a decision regarding evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, "it’s imperative that all sides take steps to de-escalate and calm the situation."
Amid de-escalation attempts by both the Israelis and Palestinians, Blinken reiterated that "Israel, of course, has a right to defend its people and its territory from these attacks."
After Blinken's meeting with Safadi, the State Department released a statement saying that "Both agreed on the urgency of de-escalation and the importance of preserving the historic status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem as well as Jordan’s role there. The Secretary also re-affirmed U.S. support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
State Department spokesperson Ned Price also said that the United States recognized Israel's right to defend itself, adding that the United States is deeply concerned about the situation on a broader level.
"The United States will remain fully engaged to promote calm in Jerusalem, and we welcome the steps the Israeli government has taken in recent days aimed at avoiding provocations, including the decision to avoid competitions during the Jerusalem Day commemoration and the delay in a decision regarding the Sheikh Jarrah evictions," Price said.
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When asked about Israel's retaliatory strikes on Gaza, Price noted that he was speaking to the broader principle of self-defense and that he was hesitant to comment on unconfirmed details of specific operations.
Price noted that the Biden administration has been clear on where they stand on the potential evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, citing his detailed statement on Friday and the readout of National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's call with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat.
The State Department spokesperson added that the administration's extreme concern about Friday's violence at the Temple Mount was behind the "pretty rare step" of issuing a late-night statement on Friday.
"Peaceful protests are a concept that we support, whether in Israel or anywhere else," he said. He also stressed that while the U.S. considers the West Bank occupied territory, it considers Jerusalem a final status issue to be determined. Price said that he doesn't want to make a comment ahead of an Israeli Supreme Court decision, but the U.S. has made their concern about the potential evictions clear.
Price pushed back on claims that the administration wasn't prioritizing the conflict, saying that it continues to urge both sides to avoid steps preventing a potential two-state solution while prioritizing deescalation and restoring calm.
"Over the longer term it may move toward playing some sort of mediating role between Israelis and Palestinians, but given circumstances on the ground right now and even before this current flare up, we're just not in a position to see meaningful progress and our policy has recognized that," he said.