Antony Blinken Tells Israel to 'Do Everything' it Can to Avoid Civilian Deaths in Conflict

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to de-escalate the violence in Gaza but reaffirmed U.S. support for Israel, the Associated Press reported.

Blinken announced that he also told Netanyahu that the Biden administration believes in the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to live in safety and security. The State Department will send a senior diplomat to the region to attempt to broker peace.

The State Department said Blinken repeated appeals that he and President Joe Biden have made regarding Israelis and Palestinians being able to "enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and democracy."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Gaza City
The aftermath of targeting Al-Jawhara Tower in central Gaza on May 12, 2021, in Gaza City, Gaza. At least three dozen Palestinians and five Israelis were killed in the cross-border exchange of rockets and aerial bombardment, which followed a series of violent confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in East Jerusalem. Fatima Shbai/Getty Images

Israelis destroy 14-story building

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli fighter jets have dropped two bombs on a 14-story building in Gaza City and destroyed it.

The building housed businesses as well as offices for Hamas' Al-Aqsa satellite TV channel. It was located in the old Roman neighborhood, on the busiest shopping street in Gaza.

Hamas says it has fired 130 rockets toward Israel in response for the attack on Wednesday.

The Israeli airstrike was the latest in a series of assaults on targets in the Gaza Strip after a long dispute between Israel and Hamas erupted into an exchange of rocket attacks from Gaza and Israeli retaliation.
The building is the third multistory structure that Israeli aircraft have hit directly, reducing two to rubble. The third is still standing but in irreparable condition.

Blinken: Israel bears extra burden

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Israel bears an "extra burden" to avoid civilian casualties as it responds to rocket attacks from Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Blinken says Israel has an "absolute" right to defend itself and its citizens from militant attacks but that it must take all possible steps to protect innocent Palestinians.

He said on Wednesday that Israel should "do everything it possibly can to avoid civilian casualties even as it is rightfully responding in defense of its people."

Blinken made the comments after announcing that he is sending a senior U.S. diplomat to the Middle East to press Israeli and Palestinians officials both to de-escalate the tensions and violence that now verge on war.

Blinken condemned the Hamas rocket attacks and stressed that both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to live in peace and security.

Diplomat going to Middle East

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he's sending a senior American diplomat to the Middle East to urge Israeli and Palestinian officials to de-escalate the conflict threatening to erupt into a new war.

Blinken told reporters on Wednesday he had instructed Hady Amr, the deputy secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, to travel immediately to the region. The move comes as the situation deteriorates with intensified rocket attacks on Israel from Hamas militants and Israeli retaliation.

Amr is the most senior U.S. diplomat tasked with the matter. He served as deputy Middle East peace envoy during the Obama administration. Blinken did not say who Amr would meet with or how long his mission would last.

The Biden administration has been criticized by both sides as well as by lawmakers for not doing enough to try to stop the violence. Blinken said the administration is "very focused" on the matter and remains committed to a two-state resolution to end the decades-long conflict.