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Blinken talks with Netanyahu amid escalating violence

Blinken talks with Netanyahu amid escalating violence

Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenPelosi signals no further action against Omar US drops sanctions on Iranian officials as nuclear talks stall Senior Chinese diplomat talks with Blinken amid debate over competitiveness bill MORE spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE Wednesday amid a spike in violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

The State Department said in a readout of the call that Blinken “expressed his concerns regarding the barrage of rocket attacks on Israel, his condolences for the lives lost as a result, and the United States’ strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself.”

“The Secretary and the Prime Minister discussed the ongoing violence in Jerusalem, and the Secretary reiterated his call on all parties to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence. 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 followed one Blinken had with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi Tuesday amid the worst surge in violence between Israel and Hamas since the brutal war in 2014.

Tensions first boiled over last month over an Israeli court ruling in favor of evicting dozens of Palestinian families from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Israeli police later raided inside the Al-Aqsa mosque, sending worshippers fleeing and leaving hundreds of Palestinians and Israeli police wounded.

Hamas this week responded by launching a barrage of rockets into Israel, with Israel launching retaliatory airstrikes on the Gaza Strip enclave. Several fatalities have been reported on both sides, including one child in Israel and more than a dozen in the Gaza Strip. 

The violence continued unabated Wednesday, with rockets killing the first Israeli soldier to die in the fighting and Israeli airstrikes pounding Gaza.

The White House earlier this week called for calm and said President BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE is being kept abreast of the situation, the White House said.

“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 PsakiBiden, Macron huddle on sidelines of G7 summit Biden to host Germany's Merkel at the White House in July Psaki 'likely will stay longer' than year as White House press secretary MORE said Tuesday.