May 15, 2021 - 9:26 pm
Amid escalating casualties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, more than 50 European and North American lawmakers penned a letter together with the American Jewish Committee’s EU office condemning ongoing Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and the use of human shields.
“It’s not only that these terrorists started this latest round of confrontation. Hamas and Islamic Jihad commit the double war crime of murdering Israeli civilians while using their own population as human shields,” said the letter, which was signed by legislators from more than 20 countries as part of an initiative by the Transatlantic Friends of Israel.
“In stark contrast, the Israeli army, in its efforts to protect its own population, is doing its utmost to avoid harming Palestinian civilians, even warning them on cellphones ahead of attacks.”
The statement, released Thursday, included signatures of U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Brad Schneider, D-Ill., alongside government officials from Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada and the United Kingdom.
“We express our firm belief that the Jewish state — our key democratic ally — has, like all sovereign states, not only the right but the duty to defend its citizens against terror and rockets,” the letter continued. “We affirm our unwavering and steadfast support for the State of Israel in her hour of need.”
Other shows of support were seen throughout the world, including Berlin, where the ruling party led by Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the Israeli flag outside its offices.
“We condemn the terrorism against Israel and are making sure people see that,” the party said in a statement.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz expressed his support on social media Friday with a post that said, “The terrorist attacks on Israel should elicit our strongest condemnation. Together we stand by Israel.”
President Joe Biden has expressed “strong support” for Israel’s strikes in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas missile attacks on its territory but raised concerns about civilian casualties and the protection of journalists on a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The White House said Biden on Saturday also shared his “grave concern” about inter-communal violence within Israel and escalating tensions in the West Bank.
Biden and Netanyahu also discussed Jerusalem, with Biden saying it should “be a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds.”
Biden also held his first call since taking office with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the violence, in which he called for Hamas, the Palestinian Authority’s rival, to stop firing rockets into Israel.
The White House said Biden “expressed his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve” and highlighted the resumption of U.S. aid to the Palestinians under his administration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.