US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said in a Wednesday interview that the US fully backed Israel in its fight against Gaza terrorists in the past week.
The Israel Defense Forces launched airstrikes against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on Friday — saying it resorted to force against a “concrete” cross-border threat — kicking off three days of fighting, before an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into force Sunday night.
“These are bad guys,” Nides said of the terror groups. “We’re aware of the situation going on in Gaza. We understood this was an important mission for the Israelis.”
“We support Israel’s right to defend itself, its right to basically take the actions it needs to keep this place safe, so we’re fully supportive of Israel’s actions,” he told Channel 13.
Nides said the US had not been informed of the operation ahead of time, but said, “I don’t think we were surprised.”
“I don’t think we were told in advance but I think we were aware as the actions were taking place,” Nides said. “We were pretty clear that we support the State of Israel’s security.”
Nides also said in the interview that “every option” was open to the US in countering the Iranian nuclear threat, as negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program remain stalled and appear to be near a dead end. Iran also backs the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad, along with the Strip’s terrorist rulers, Hamas.
The White House has made similar statements about Iran’s nuclear program in the past, but prefers a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
“Every option is on the table, as President Biden has said,” Nides said of the Iranian nuclear threat. “We’re not going to allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”
On Friday, the Israel Defense Forces launched strikes that killed Tayseer Jabari, Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s commander in northern Gaza, saying the terror group planned an imminent attack against Israeli civilians or troops along the border. Islamic Jihad had been issuing threats for days, which had put many civilians in southern Israel under a security lockdown.
Along with Jabari, Israeli forces also killed Khaled Mansour, Islamic Jihad’s commander in southern Gaza, during the flareup.
Over the three days of fighting, the IDF struck 170 targets using fighter jets, armed drones, combat helicopters, and artillery, the military said. Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the strikes were a “precise counter-terror operation against an immediate threat.”
In total over the three days, 1,175 rockets and mortars were launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel. The Iron Dome anti-rocket system intercepted over 380 projectiles fired toward populated areas, at an unprecedented 97 percent success rate, the IDF said. There were no casualties in Israel.
Authorities in Hamas-run Gaza said 45 people were killed in the fighting, including 16 children, but it did not say how many of the total killed were affiliated with terror groups; Israel has blamed errant missile fire by Palestinian fighters for many of the deaths. At least 15 deaths were claimed as members by Islamic Jihad, Hamas and another, smaller terror group.
During the fighting, Nides said “the United States firmly believes that Israel has a right to protect itself,” adding that Washington was “engaging with different parties and urge all sides for calm.”
Biden expressed support for Israel during the flareup and commended Lapid for “steady leadership” after the ceasefire.