The U.S. deputy assistant secretary for Israeli-Palestinian affairs Hady Amr was set to travel to Israel later on Wednesday to discuss ways to de-escalate the crisis.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the mission, saying “the images that came out overnight are harrowing. And the loss of any civilian life is a tragedy. I have asked Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr to go to the region immediately to meet with Israelis and Palestinians … he will urge, on my behalf and on behalf of President (Joe) Biden, a de-escalation of violence.”
Blinken added: “I think Israel has an extra burden in trying to do everything they possibly can to avoid civilian casualties, even as it is rightfully responding in defense of its people. We’re deeply concerned about what we’re seeing there,” he said.
Subsequently, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: “I spoke just now on the phone with Secretary of State Tony Blinken, I thanked him for American support for Israel’s self-defense, which he mentioned again in our conversation.”
Amr’s visit will be the most active U.S. intervention so far in the Gaza crisis, which has so far been limited to phone calls.
It’s also Amr’s first trip to the region as a Biden administration official. With the assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs not yet approved by Congress and with no plans to appoint a special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Amr is the most senior member of the administration focusing on the issue, The Times of Israel noted.
The post of ambassador to Israel has also remained vacant since Biden took office in January.
Also on Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Loyd Austin spoke with his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz and conveyed the Pentagon’s “ironclad support for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself,” according to his spokesman John Kirby.
“Most important thing now is for all sides to cease violence, Israel has the extra burden in trying to do everything it can to avoid civilian casualties,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council held another emergency meeting on the Gaza crisis, though again without agreeing on a joint statement due to opposition from the United States, according to The Times of Israel, citing diplomatic sources.
The United States sees the Security Council meeting as a sufficient show of concern, one diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The U.S. doesn’t see that a statement will help de-escalate,” says another.
According to several sources, 14 of the 15 members of the Council were in favor of adopting a joint declaration aimed at reducing tension.
Updated Wednesday, May 12, 2021 at 12:43 pm .
Updated Wednesday, May 12, 2021 at 1:29 pm .