U.S. 'Fully Supports' Israel Amid Gaza Escalation, but Urges Calm From Both Sides

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. 'absolutely fully supports Israel's right to defend itself against terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel'

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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Smoke and fire rise above Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza strip, during an Israeli air strike, on Friday.
Smoke and fire rise above Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza strip, during an Israeli air strike, on Friday.Credit: Youssef Massoud / AFP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

The Biden administration has expressed full-throated support of Israel amid the escalating conflict with Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, while calling on all sides to avoid further violence.

"We're actively engaged with Israeli, Palestinian and regional partners to work toward achieving calm in the wake of these strikes, and we certainly urge all sides to avoid further escalation," National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said.

"We remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel's security and will continue to work to strengthen all aspects of the U.S.-Israeli partnership," Kirby noted, adding that the U.S. "absolutely fully supports Israel's right to defend itself against terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel."

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides echoed these points, saying "the United States firmly believes that Israel has a right to protect itself. We are engaging with different parties and urge all sides for calm."

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Defense Minister Benny Gantz Friday, where he "underscored Israel's right to self-defense and the enduring U.S. commitment to Israel's security" following a briefing from Gantz on the operation, according to a Defense Department readout.

Austin, however, urged de-escalation and notably "expressed concern regarding reports of civilian deaths and called for a timely and thorough investigation into any civilian casualties" — the first official U.S. call to date concerning such a probe into civilian deaths in this round of violence.

Members of Congress have been overwhelmingly supportive of Israel's actions, with at least 19 bipartisan U.S. lawmakers from both houses of Congress decrying Islamic Jihad as an Iran-sponsored terror organization while highlighting U.S. support for the Iron Dome missile defense system.

At least 350 rockets have been launched from the Gaza Strip since Friday, not including the most recent volley of rockets, after Israel launched a military operation against Islamic Jihad and began shelling the Palestinian enclave.

At least 15 Gazans have been killed and another 125 wounded since Israel launched its military operation, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported on Saturday. Israel, meanwhile, has reported 21 people wounded from shrapnel, injuries sustained while running for shelter and people experiencing panic attacks.

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