Blinken implores Israel to avoid civilian deaths, backs right to self-defense

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken implores Israel to avoid civilian deaths, even as he defends the Jewish state’s right to attack Gaza in response to Hamas rocket fire.

“I think Israel has an extra burden in trying to do everything they possibly can to avoid civilian casualties, even as it is rightfully responding in defense of its people,” Blinken says, calling images of dead Palestinian children “harrowing.”

“We’re deeply concerned about what we’re seeing there,” he says. “The loss of any civilian life is a tragedy.”

He says he’s asked Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr “to go to the region immediately to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He will bring to bare his decades of experience, and in particular, he will urge on my behalf and on behalf of President Biden a de-escalation of violence. We are very focused on this.”

On Feb. 26, 2021 Secretary Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool, File)

He also says the US “remains committed to a two-state solution. This violence takes us further away from that goal.”

He adds: “We condemn and I condemn again the rocket attacks in the strongest possible terms. We believe Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live with safety and security and will continue to engage with Israelis, Palestinians and other regional partners to urge de-escalation and to bring calm.”

Blinken adds that there is a clear and absolute distinction between Hamas, which targets civilians while “indiscriminately raining down rockets,” and Israel that is defending itself.

“But whenever we see civilian casualties, and particularly when we see children caught in the crossfire losing their lives, that has a powerful impact.”

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