Washington – Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, is using the controversial unveiling of the American embassy in Jerusalem as an ”excuse” to encourage violence, the US State Department said Tuesday, after Israeli forces killed 60 Palestinians during protests.
When pressed by journalists in Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert refused to follow other Western countries in calling for restraint from Israel, or even all parties.
”This is a complex region,” Nauert said.
While asserting that ”we regret the loss of life; we regret the loss of all life,” Nauert also reiterated the White House position: ”Israel has a right to defend itself.”
Nauert declined to link the violence with the new American embassy, unveiled Monday after the United States unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
”We have watched the demonstrations over the past six weeks. These demonstrations are nothing new,” Nauert said.
”If Hamas wants to use that as an excuse to rile people up and to encourage violence, that is their choice. It’s an irresponsible choice.”
Israel is coming under mounting international pressure and calls for an independent probe over the violence.
Palestinians on Tuesday marked the Nakba, or ”catastrophe,” commemorating the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.
Protests and sporadic incidents flared again Tuesday on the Gaza border, though they were far fewer in number than the previous day, with two Palestinians killed by Israeli fire, Gaza’s health ministry said.