US, EU lament civilians killed in IDF’s strikes in Gaza, urge sides to deescelate

US Embassy in Jerusalem careful to stress its commitment to Israel’s security, while EU emphasizes importance of sides adhering to commitments made at recent regional summits

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Relatives mourn during the funeral of  Islamic Jihad commander Khalil Bahtini, his wife and son, who were killed in an Israeli airstrike at their family home in Gaza City on May 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
Relatives mourn during the funeral of Islamic Jihad commander Khalil Bahtini, his wife and son, who were killed in an Israeli airstrike at their family home in Gaza City on May 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

The United States and the European Union both lamented the loss of civilian lives in Israeli airstrikes targeting senior military leaders of the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.

Both the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the EU urged the parties to deescalate tensions, though the former was careful to include a line in its statement stressing that “the US commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad.”

After 2 a.m. on Tuesday, the IDF launched Operation Shield and Arrow, carrying out a series of near-simultaneous airstrikes in Gaza that eliminated three senior members of the PIJ. Ten civilians were also killed — including four children aged 5, 9, 10 and 14 — and 20 others were injured.

Hours later, the IDF said it targeted a PIJ squad that was seeking to carry out an anti-tank guided missile attack against targets on the Israeli border. Two men were killed and two others were injured, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Tuesday’s escalation came days after a short-lived but fiery flareup of violence set the restive region on edge. Islamic Jihad fired 104 rockets toward Israel on May 2 and 3, in response to the death of a senior member of the group who had been on an 86-day hunger strike in Israeli prison.

Israel was girding Tuesday evening for a widespread response from PIJ, as the Gaza-ruling Hamas threatened to join the fighting as well.

The damage to a building following Israeli airstrikes on an apartment of an Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza City, Tuesday, May 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

“We are closely following Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip that killed three leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” the US embassy said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “We are also aware of reports that 10 civilians were tragically killed in the Israeli strikes.

“We call for all parties to deescalate the situation to protect noncombatants and prevent any further loss of civilian life,” the statement continued. “The US commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad.”

The European Union said in a statement from its spokesperson Peter Stano that it “is gravely concerned by the escalation in Gaza following today’s Israeli air raids.

“The EU deeply regrets the loss of civilian lives, including children and calls for the respect of international humanitarian law, civilian lives must be protected under all circumstances,” the statement continued.

“We urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint, promote calm and work toward a political horizon and regional stability in line with the commitments in the Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh declarations,” the EU added, referencing the joint communiques issued by Israel and the Palestinian Authority after February and March regional summits in Jordan and Egypt respectively.

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