The U.S. recognizes “very real security challenges facing Israel and the Palestinian Authority” and condemns “terrorist groups planning and carrying out attacks against civilians,” according to a statement Thursday from State Department Spokesman Ned Price.
The statement on the “situation in Jenin” stated that at least nine Palestinians (terrorists and at least one civilian) were killed and more than 20 injured during an IDF counter-terrorism operation targeting a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell.
“We mourn the loss of innocent lives as well as injuries to civilians, and are deeply concerned by the cycle of violence in the West Bank,” Price said in the statement. “We underscore the urgent need for all parties to de-escalate, prevent further loss of civilian life, and work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank. Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely.”
The State Department released the statement following heated questions during an earlier briefing with Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesman, including repeated questions about whether Jenin is “occupied” territory.
“It’s not the Palestinians that keep going day after day into Israeli villages and towns and so on and attack them during night raids, killing their people,” a reporter stated as part of a question. “You just basically recited the Israeli story.” The reporter added later, “Can you call on the Israelis to de-escalate? Do they listen to you when you tell them to de-escalate and not to attack innocent Palestinians day-in and day-out?”
Another reporter asked if Patel thought the “rising escalation of violence” Israel’s “new right-wing government” would cause other Arab countries to have second thoughts about the Abraham Accords.
In response to another question, Patel said that the Iran nuclear deal “is not on the agenda because of the Iranian regime,” which turned its back on the deal that was on the table.
Patel was also asked about Sarah Margon’s withdrawal from nomination as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor following criticism for anti-Israel statements. “Sarah Margon is someone who is deeply experienced and deeply accomplished in her field,” he said. “She made…what I’m sure was a tough decision to withdraw her own candidacy.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to travel to Jerusalem and Ramallah later this month.