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Blinken speaks with Israeli counterpart amid escalating conflict

Blinken speaks with Israeli counterpart amid escalating conflict
© getty: Secretary of State Anthony Blinken

Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenGreene apologizes for comparing vaccine rules to Holocaust Detainee fates hang over Biden meeting with Putin ICC relations with US undergoing 'reset' with Biden, prosecutor says MORE spoke with his Israeli counterpart Tuesday amid an escalating conflict between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip.

The State Department said in a readout of the call with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi that Blinken “expressed his concerns regarding rocket attacks on Israel and his condolences for the lives lost as a result.”

“The Secretary and the Foreign Minister also discussed the violence in Jerusalem, in particular on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah. The Secretary reiterated his call on all parties to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence, which has claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children. The Secretary emphasized the need for Israelis and Palestinians to be able to live in safety and security, as well as enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy,” the readout continued. 

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The conversation between Blinken and Ashkenazi is the first time the two diplomats have spoken since the violence escalated. They had last talked in April.

The call followed a similar one between U.S. national security adviser Jake SullivanJake SullivanNATO members agree to new cyber defense policy NATO tackling climate change for first time Biden emphasizes 'critically important' NATO alliance upon arrival at summit MORE and his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, which marked the second time the two have spoken in two days.

The calls come amid spiking tensions between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, following clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians in east Jerusalem.

Tensions began to bubble over earlier this month during the waning days of Ramadan over Palestinians’ access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and efforts by Israeli settlers to evict families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Militants in the Gaza Strip began launching rockets as the clashes reached a boiling point, with Israel launching retaliatory airstrikes on the enclave.

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Two dozen Palestinians, including several children, and two Israelis were reported dead as of Tuesday afternoon.

In a sign that the violence will continue for days to come, militants launched rockets at Jerusalem — a rare target for such attacks — and dozens of projectiles at Tel Aviv.

The White House on Tuesday condemned the violence and said President BidenJoe BidenFormer Rep. Rohrabacher says he took part in Jan. 6 march to Capitol but did not storm building Saudis picked up drugs in Cairo used to kill Khashoggi: report Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting MORE was being continually briefed on the situation.

“Since last week, he has directed his team to engage intensively with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials as well as leaders throughout the Middle East. His team is communicating a clear and consistent message of de-escalation, and that is our primary focus,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiHarris highlights COVID-19 vaccination safety, efficacy in SC event to kick off tour Biden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting MORE said at a regular press briefing.

“The president’s support for Israel’s security, for its legitimate right to defend itself and its people, is fundamental and will never waiver. We condemn ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem. We also stand against extremism that has inflicted violence on both communities,” she added.