Blinken calls Netanyahu, backs Israel's defense

Both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in safety and security, the U.S. Secretary of State said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reaffirm America’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza.

Mr. Blinken spoke on Wednesday with the Israeli leader. The State Department said he also repeated U.S. calls for a de-escalation of violence and the Biden administration’s belief that both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in safety and security.

According to the State Department, Mr. Blinken told Mr. Netanyahu that as he and President Joe Biden have said in the past, the administration believes Israelis and Palestinians should “enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy.” Mr. Blinken says Israel bears an “extra burden” to avoid civilian casualties as it responds to rocket attacks from Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Blinken says Israel has an “absolute” right to defend itself and its citizens from militant attacks but that it must take all possible steps to protect innocent Palestinians.

He said on Wednesday that Israel should “do everything it possibly can to avoid civilian casualties even as it is rightfully responding in defense of its people.”

Mr. Blinken made the comments after announcing that he is sending a senior U.S. diplomat to the Middle East to press Israeli and Palestinians officials both to de-escalate the tensions and violence that now verge on war.

Mr. Blinken condemned the Hamas rocket attacks and stressed that both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to live in peace and security.

Blinken told reporters on Wednesday he had instructed Hady Amr, the deputy secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, to travel immediately to the region.

The move comes as the situation deteriorates with intensified rocket attacks on Israel from Hamas militants and Israeli retaliation.

Mr. Amr is the most senior U.S. diplomat tasked with the matter. He served as deputy Middle East peace envoy during the Obama administration. Mr. Blinken did not say who Mr. Amr would meet with or how long his mission would last.

The Biden administration has been criticised by both sides as well as by lawmakers for not doing enough to try to stop the violence.

Mr. Blinken said the administration is “very focused” on the matter and remains committed to a two-state resolution to end the decades-long conflict.

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