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Austin repeats 'ironclad support' for Israel in conflict with Palestine

Austin repeats 'ironclad support' for Israel in conflict with Palestine
© Greg Nash

Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Biden participates in NATO summit | White House backs 2002 AUMF repeal | Top general says no plans for airstrikes to help Afghan forces after withdrawal Top general: US won't support Afghan forces with airstrikes after withdrawal Biden congratulates newly-formed Israeli government MORE on Wednesday called his Israeli counterpart to stress the United States’s “ironclad support” for Jerusalem’s right to defend itself in the midst of a military conflict with Hamas, according to the Pentagon.

Austin also told Israeli Minister of Defense Benjamin Gantz "he strongly condemned the launching of rockets by Hamas and other terrorists groups that targeted Israeli civilians,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

The Pentagon chief “reiterated the importance of all involved parties to take steps to restore calm.” 

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The call between Austin and Gantz comes after the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis dramatically escalated earlier this week. 

Israel Defense Forces carried out multiple air strikes across the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a barrage of thousands of rockets fired by Hamas, the Islamic militant and terrorist-designated group that runs the strip.

The militant group said the rockets were a response to the Israeli police firing stun grenades inside one of the city's holiest sites, the Al-Aqsa mosque, on Monday following several days of clashes between Israeli authorities and worshippers there. 

The unrest was also caused by the possible eviction of several Palestinian families from their homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, with United Nations human rights experts calling on Israel “to immediately lift its threat to evict hundreds of Palestinian households from their legally protected homes."

Civilian casualties have been reported both from the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from Israeli air strikes, and in Israel as a result of rocket attacks launched by Hamas and other groups in the strip.

The Biden administration earlier on Wednesday said it is dispatching its top official on Israeli and Palestinian affairs to Jerusalem as part of efforts to deescalate tensions.