By Sarah Lazare | Common Dreams
US backing comes amid rising Palestinian death toll in besieged enclave
The White House on Tuesday announced its backing of Israel’s escalating air strikes on Gaza amid reports of a rising Palestinian death toll that now includes the killing of more than a dozen children.
Speaking at a daily briefing, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest declared, “No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks.”
“I want to ask the White House, Who do they think is actually targeting civilians when it is Palestinian children being killed?” —Ramah Kudaimi, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
He added, “At the same time, we appreciate the call that Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has made publicly to act responsibly. We’re concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides.”
But Ramah Kudaimi of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation told Common Dreams, “It is utterly shameful and incomprehensible that at a time that Israel is launching airstrikes on a population under siege and unable to escape, the White House would make it seem that it is justifiable in any sort of way.”
Numerous reports show a heavy death toll for the over 1.7 million people who live in Gaza under a U.S.-backed military and economic siege, which has escalated since 2007, cutting off residents from public goods including clean water and medical supplies.
According to a Wednesday morning tweet from a Gaza Health Ministry official, at least 49 Palestinians have so far been killed and over 450 people injured during Israeli air strikes this week. At least 13 of the dead so far, reports indictate, are children 16-years-old or younger. This includes Mohammed Malakiyeh, just 18-months-old, who died alongside his mother.
“I want to ask the White House, Who do they think is actually targeting civilians when it is Palestinian children being killed?” said Kudaimi.
The high death tolls are not new to Gaza, where safe places to take shelter during air raids are few and far between.
Israel’s last major bombing of Gaza in November 2012 killed 158 Palestinians—33 of them children, according to Defence for Children International—Palestine. And Israel’s 2008 – 2009 “Operation Cast Lead” attack on Gaza killed approximately 1,400 Palestinians, 352 of them children, the organization reports.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to further escalate the military attacks, reports from the ground show rising fear and death in Gaza.
Video footage from The Washington Post shows scenes in Gaza, including air strikes and their aftermath. Warning: graphic and disturbing images.
This article originally appeared on Common Dreams.