White House Has 'Serious Concerns' About Escalating Tensions in Israel

The White House is closely monitoring escalating tensions and violent clashes in Israel.

"We have serious concerns about the situation, including violent confrontations that we've seen over the last few days," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday, just hours after Hamas militants fired rockets into Israel.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been hurt in clashes with Israeli police around Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, one of Islam's holiest sites, in recent days.

Photos show that Israeli police have fired tear gas into crowds and used stun grenades and rubber bullets against Palestinians who have been throwing rocks and setting fires.

Protestors have taken to the streets to oppose the eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem.

Hamas has threatened more rocket strikes if the evictions are carried out and if Israel doesn't remove its police from the mosque compound.

Psaki said President Joe Biden has been kept abreast of the developments as his national security team monitors the situation.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, on Sunday. Psaki said that Sullivan "reiterated concerns about the potential evictions of Palestinian families from their homes, and they agreed that the launching of rocket attacks and sending incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel is unacceptable, and must be condemned."

A White House readout of the call said Sullivan "highlighted recent engagements by senior U.S. officials with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials and key regional stakeholders to press for steps to ensure calm, deescalate tensions and denounce violence."

The Associated Press reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas of crossing a "red line" with its rocket attack on Jerusalem, which hasn't been a frequent target for rockets.

"We will not tolerate an attack on our territory, in our capital, on our citizens and soldiers. Whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price," Netanyahu said Monday.

Netanyahu further warned that the violence would likely "continue for a while," the AP reported. Hamas, an Islamic militant group, has fought three wars with Israel since 2007.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said, "Palestinian terror groups are presenting a real-estate dispute between private parties, as a nationalistic cause, in order to incite violence in Jerusalem."

The Ministry also defended law enforcement's role in the violent clashes.

"The Israel police will ensure public order is maintained," the Ministry tweeted.

The latest wave of violence came as Israel celebrated Jerusalem Day on Monday, a holiday that marks Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.

Israeli security Palestinian protesters clash in Jerusalem
Palestinian protesters run from Israeli security forces amid clashes in Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2021, ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel's takeover of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP/Getty Images