The Times of Israel: Amid Gaza violence, Trump says US supports Israel 100% in defending its citizens
US President Donald Trump said Sunday that the United States supports Israel “100%” as it protects its people from an onslaught of rockets fire from Gaza.
“Once again, Israel faces a barrage of deadly rocket attacks by terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” Trump tweeted Sunday evening in his first remarks since the surge in violence over the weekend. “We support Israel 100% in its defense of its citizens.”
In the worst outbreak from the coastal enclave since the 51-day 2014 war, Gaza militants have fired more than 600 rockets into Israel since Friday, killing four Israelis, including a 21-year-old Israeli-American, and sending much of the south of the country into bomb shelters.
Trump also had a message to the Palestinians.
“To the Gazan people — these terrorist acts against Israel will bring you nothing but more misery,” the president said. “END the violence and work towards peace – it can happen!”
The eruption in violence comes as the Trump administration is preparing to unveil its long-awaited peace plan, which officials have said will come as early as June, after the Ramadan holiday, which starts Monday in many places.
Trump’s full backing for Israel is unlikely to impact the Palestinian reaction to the plan, as they have already rejected it, citing previous pro-Israel moves by the Trump administration.
The latest violence began on Friday after a Palestinian sniper wounded two Israeli soldiers, and Gaza terrorists fired rockets and mortars toward Israeli cities and towns.
Israel responded with airstrikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza. Hamas officials said that 22 Palestinians died in the offensive, including a pregnant woman and two young children. The IDF said the pregnant woman was killed by a failed rocket launch fired by terror groups from within the Strip. At least 11 of the Palestinian dead were terrorists.
A White House official declined to comment on Sunday when asked how the latest flareup would affect the rollout of the proposal.
Vice President Mike Pence condemned Hamas attacks and said that Israel had a right to protect itself militarily. “We strongly condemn the attacks in Gaza by Hamas terrorists,” he tweeted. “Israel has the absolute right to defend itself & the U.S. stands by our great ally Israel.”
Not everyone in Washington, however, was so unequivocally supportive of Israel.
Freshmen Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, suggested that the root cause of the fighting was Israel’s “occupation” of Gaza and the impoverished conditions there.
“How many more protesters must be shot, rockets must be fired, and little kids must be killed until the endless cycle of violence ends? The status quo of occupation and humanitarian crisis in Gaza is unsustainable,” she tweeted. “Only real justice can bring about security and lasting peace.”
Under former prime minister Ariel Sharon, Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, forcibly evicting 7,000-8,000 settlers and pulling out all its military forces.
After Hamas overtook control over Gaza from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction in a bloody coup in 20007, Israel installed a naval blockage and siege of the strip to prevent weaponry from being smuggled in and block Hamas from exacting terror attacks in Israel.
Omar has, in the past, been intensely critical of Israel. She tweeted during the last Israel-Hamas war of 2014 that Israel had “hypnotized the world.”
Earlier this year, she accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee of paying public officials to support Israel and said pro-Israel activists were pressuring her to forge an “allegiance” toward Israel, which critics said amounted to her levying the charge of dual loyalty.
The Democratic Majority for Israel, a recently established pro-Israel advocacy group aligned with the Democratic Party, castigated Hamas for firing “deadly and unprovoked rocket attacks on Israeli civilians” and urged all of the party’s presidential hopefuls to publicly express support for Israel in this conflict.
“This is the time for political leaders in both parties to express solidarity with Israel,” the organization’s CEO Mark Mellman. “We urge all of the Democratic presidential candidates to condemn these terror attacks and reaffirm their support of Israel’s right to defend itself.”
As of this writing, none of them have commented.