U.S. Condemns Rocket Strikes on Israel as Iran, Turkey, Arabs Rally Around Palestinians

The United States has condemned an ongoing barrage of rocket attacks against Israel as Middle Eastern states rallied in support of Palestinians protesting evictions and security restrictions in the disputed holy city of Jerusalem.

As rockets continued to rain down on Israeli cities and settlements amid a sharp spike in unrest between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protestors, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters Monday that President Joe Biden's administration "condemns in the strongest terms the barrage of rocket attacks fired into Israel in recent hours."

"This is an unacceptable escalation," Price said. "While we urge de-escalation on all sides, we also recognize Israel's legitimate right to defend itself and to defend its people and its territory."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed similar sentiments, saying rocket attacks "need to stop immediately," in remarks Monday alongside his Jordanian counterpart Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi.

"It's imperative that all sides take steps to de-escalate and calm the situation," Blinken said. "And again, I'm deeply concerned about the rocket attacks. And even as all sides take steps to de-escalate, Israel, of course, has a right to defend its people and its territory from these attacks."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also expressed concern as the situation in Israel rapidly deteriorated.

"We are continuing to closely monitor the violence in Israel," Psaki said. "We have serious concerns about the situation, including violent confrontations that we've seen over the last few days,"

The Israel Defense Forces have broadcast dozens of warnings as their Iron Dome system attempted to intercept a volley of what the IDF estimated to be some 150 rockets claimed by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and its military wing, Al Qassam Brigades, as well as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization and its own force, Al-Quds Brigades. Hamas had earlier demanded that the IDF cease its crackdown on Palestinians, an operation that included an Israeli raid on the revered Al Aqsa Mosque compound, where a blaze broke out.

"Al Qassam Brigades strikes the enemy with rockets in retaliation to its crimes and aggression on the holy city and brutality against our people in Sheikh Jarrah and Al Aqsa Mosque," the force's spokesperson Abu Obeida said in a statement shared with Newsweek. "This is a message to the enemy that it should understand it. If it returns, we will return. If it increases its aggression, we will increase our strikes."

Hamas' political head Ismail Haniyeh spoke via telephone on Monday with the top diplomat of Israel's archfoe, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Zarif "reaffirmed his solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine and condemned the actions of the usurping and cruel Zionist regime against the fasting people of Palestine, as well as the attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the martyrdom and wounding of defenseless worshipers," according to a readout from his ministry.

He also shared his assessment of the situation via social media.

"It wasn't enough for the Israeli regime to -Steal people's land & homes; -Create an Apartheid regime; -Refuse to vaccinate civilians under illegal occupation," Zarif tweeted. "It had to shoot innocent worshippers inside Islam's 3rd Holiest Mosque upon Islam's Holiest Eid."

The IDF, for its part, launched a series of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is based.

"In response to continuous rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, over the past few hours, the IDF struck a number of terror targets belonging to the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip," the IDF said in a statement shared with Newsweek. "Among the targets are two rocket launchers, two military posts and eight terror operatives belonging to the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza strip were struck."

The Palestinian Health Ministry reported 20 dead, including nine children, as a result of the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. The IDF has also reported a number of injuries among its ranks.

Price declined to comment on whether or not it was the U.S. position that Israel's airstrikes were included in the administration's recognized definition of self-defense, nor if the administration felt that Palestinians also had a legitimate right to self-defense. He said reports of civilians killed in the Gaza Strip had yet to be independently confirmed, but that any civilian loss would be examined closely.

"Obviously, the deaths of civilians, be they Israeli or Palestinians, are something we would take very seriously," Price said.

israel, palestinian, unrest, rocket, attack, ashkelon
Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, controlled by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, above the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, on May 10. JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

The decades-long territorial conflict between Israelis and Palestinians worsened as Israeli nationals sought to evict Palestinians from homes in the Jerusalem city of Sheikh Jarrah, where they had settled in the wake of the 1948 war Arab-Israeli conflict that followed the establishment of the State of Israeli on land also claimed by Palestinians.

Israeli officials have called the issue a dispute between private parties.

"The issue of Sheikh Jarrah is a legal matter that is being deliberated in the Supreme Court, after having been deliberated in two previous courts," Israel's Acting Consul General in New York Israel Nitzan said in a statement shared with Newsweek. "Israel rejects the attempt by terrorists to turn this legal matter into a nationalist struggle and cause for the incitement of violence."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently in the midst of a struggle to form a new governing coalition in Israel, railed against the rocket strikes in remarks coinciding with the national Jerusalem Day holiday on Monday.

"We are in a fight on several fronts: Jerusalem, Gaza and elsewhere in the country," Netanyahu said. "This evening, on Jerusalem Day, the terrorist organizations in Gaza have crossed a red line and attacked us with missiles in the outskirts of Jerusalem."

He shared a warning as well.

"Israel will respond with great force," Netanyahu added. "We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, on our capital, on our citizens and on our soldiers. Whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price."

But Iran was not alone in the region in condemning Israeli actions. Turkey also castigated the IDF treatment of Palestinians and the storming of Al Aqsa, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also phoned Haniyeh, as well as Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"Describing Israel's attacks in Al-Quds as 'terror,'" a statement released by the Turkish Presidency's Communications Director said Monday, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem, "President Erdoğan said that he condemned in the strongest terms these despicable attacks, which wounded the consciences of not only Muslims but of the whole humanity, and the oppression inflicted upon the Palestinians."

The statement said Erdogan was seeking regional and international support.

"Stressing that they would do everything in their power to mobilize the entire world, first and foremost the Islamic World, with a view to stopping the terror and occupation carried out by Israel," it read, "President Erdoğan noted that Turkey would always continue to defend the Palestinian cause, stand by its Palestinian brothers and sisters, and protect Al-Quds' dignity."

The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a separate statement of condemnation.

"We condemn the continuation of the operations by the Israeli security forces with firing stun grenades and using force against Palestinian civilians worshipping at al-Aqsa Mosque and the violation of the sanctity of Haram Al-Sharif, despite all the calls of the international community," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday. "We expect these attacks to be halted as soon as possible."

The ministry reiterated its "call to the Israeli administration to take the necessary measures in order to stop the attacks of racist Jewish groups and the security forces on al-Aqsa Mosque, and to prevent the racist groups from entering Haram Al-Sharif," the Arabic name for the Temple Mount plaza, which includes the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Turkey, which maintains strained relations with Israel, said that Israel must be held responsible for its action by the international community.

The UAE, which established ties with Israel just last August as part of the Abrahams Accords agreements overseen by former President Donald Trump, also weighed in.

UAE Minister of State Khalifa Shaheen al-Marar said his country "strongly condemns and denounces the Israeli authorities' storming of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, stressing the need for the Israeli authorities to assume their responsibility in accordance with the rules of international law to provide the necessary protection for Palestinian civilians and their right to practice religious rites, as well as to stop any practices that violate the sanctity of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque."

He urged Israel to respect the custodial role over the holy cite granted to Jordan, which joined Egypt in summoning Israel's envoys in their respective countries over the unrest. Prior to the Abraham Accords, Egypt and Jordan were only the Arab states with formal diplomatic ties with Israel.

Fellow Abraham Accords parties Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have also issued statements criticizing Israel's handling of the situation in Jerusalem. Saudi Arabia said it rejected Israel's narrative of the Sheikh Jarrah dispute.

Israeli officials have encouraged Saudi Arabia's participation in the Abraham Accords, but the kingdom has instead taken recent steps to repair its relationship Iran. Riyadh and Tehran severed ties in 2016 and have engaged in a regional struggle for influence that was exacerbated by Trump's 2018 exit from a nuclear deal with Iran and major world powers as well as the U.S. "maximum pressure" campaign that targeted the Islamic Republic with sanctions.

Biden has sought to reenter the agreement and his officials are currently attempting to negotiate a potential U.S. return in successive rounds of talks involving China, the European Union, France, Germany, Iran and the United Kingdom in the Austrian capital of Vienna. Israel has expressed opposition to renewed U.S. participation in the accord, but officials from both sides remained in contact as talks play out.