Biden lauds ceasefire, calls for probe into Gaza civilian casualties

U.S. president takes an evenhanded approach, saying that the blame could rest either on the IDF or on failed rocket launches of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

U.S. President Joe Biden lauded the ceasefire reached late Sunday night between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), while calling for a probe into the civilian casualties of the weekend fight.

Biden took partial credit for ending Operation Breaking Dawn, as Israel dubbed its attack on the Iranian proxy that is second in size to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The U.S., Biden said, “worked with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, and others throughout the region to encourage a swift resolution to the conflict.”

He took Israel’s side in stressing that the Jewish state had the right to “defend its people from indiscriminate rocket attacks,” while labeling the PIJ as a “terrorist group.”

The president also was evenhanded when asking for an investigation into the civilian deaths that occurred.

“The reports of civilian casualties in Gaza are a tragedy, whether by Israeli strikes against Islamic Jihad positions or the dozens of Islamic Jihad rockets that reportedly fell inside Gaza,” he said. “My administration supports a timely and thorough investigation into all of these reports.”

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Mostly Arab media reported Palestinian claims that an IDF airstrike killed several children as fact Saturday night. However, the army worked quickly to disprove the claim, with its records showing it did not carry out any operations in that area at the time.

It also released a video clip of a rocket launched at the time from a mosque that made a U-turn and hit the Jabalya refugee camp, killing the youngsters. Palestinian sources on social media showed similar footage.

According to IDF estimates, out of some 1,100 rockets the PIJ launched indiscriminately at Israel over the weekend, about 200 of them – almost a fifth – misfired and landed in the Gaza Strip. Fifteen non-combatants, including the children, were killed by these failed launchings.

The IDF took credit for eliminating 24 terrorists, while acknowledging that an additional 11 civilians were killed as well during its airstrikes. It also released a video with an exchange between a fighter pilot and control in which the pilot aborts a mission to hit a weapons storage facility in Gaza because a civilian was on the street, next to the target.

The IDF generally employs the “roof-knocking” tactic of hitting the roof of a target with a dummy missile some 15 minutes before it attacks, thus warning the inhabitants to leave. In this way, for example, when Israeli jets destroyed a five-story building early in the operation, no one was hurt in the explosion.

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Biden’s statement stood in sharp contrast to that of United Nations (UN) Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland, who expressed “deep concern” Saturday over “the targeted killing of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader inside Gaza.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan openly wondered why Wennesland was so sympathetic towards Taysir al-Jabari, who was responsible for numerous terror attacks against Israel.

In his statement, Biden also called for Israel to resume allowing fuel and humanitarian aid into Gaza and for both sides to “implement the initiatives launched during my [July] visit to improve the quality of life for Palestinians and Israelis alike.”

Israelis and Palestinians, he said, “both deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy.”