The Biden administration is dispatching its top official on Israeli and Palestinian affairs to Israel as part of efforts to deescalate tensions that have erupted into military conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs, is heading to the region to engage with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Diplomats express 'frustration' to Blinken over Havana syndrome skepticism: report Biden's post-Afghanistan focus on China is mostly positive so far MORE said Wednesday.
Amr will "urge on my behalf, and the behalf of President BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE the deescalation of violence," Blinken said, during a briefing with reporters introducing the State Department's annual report on religious freedom.
"We are very focused on this. The United States remains committed to a two-state solution. This violence takes us further away from that goal," the secretary continued.
The move marks the most significant involvement by the U.S. since conflict dramatically escalated in Israel earlier this week.
Israel Defence Forces carried out multiple air strikes across the Gaza Strip in retaliation to a barrage of thousands of rockets fired by Hamas, the Islamic militant and terrorist-designated group that runs the strip.
Riots also broke out overnight Tuesday in multiple Israeli towns and villages that are predominantly Muslim or mixed communities of Muslims and Jews, according to local reports.
Civilian casualties have been reported on both the side of 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.
Israel has said it has killed more than a dozen Hamas militants as part of its airstrikes, although Palestinian health officials have reported more than 50 civilian casualties, and that includes children.
"What's happening in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, we're deeply concerned about what we're seeing. The images that came out overnight are harrowing and the loss of any civilian life is a tragedy," the secretary said.
Blinken reinforced the stance by the administration that the U.S. supports Israel's right to self defense, but said Israeli officials have an "extra burden" to avoid civilian casualties, especially children, as they respond to the rocket fire.
"There is, first, a very clear and absolute distinction between a terrorist organization, Hamas – that is indiscriminately raining down rockets, in fact, targeting civilians – and Israel's response, defending itself, that is targeting the terrorists who are raining down rockets on Israel," he said.
"But whenever we see civilian casualties and particularly when we see children caught in the crossfire, losing their lives, that has a powerful impact, and I think Israel has an extra burden in trying to do everything it possibly can to avoid civilian casualties, even as it is rightfully responding in defense of its people," the secretary continued.
"And as I said, the Palestinian people have the right to safety and security, and we have to, I think, all work in that direction," he added. "So, the single most important thing right now is de escalation. We will continue to carry that message to our partners and to Israel to the Palestinians, and to partners in the region."