Washington, Jul 22: Amid the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, the US has said that Israel must take greater steps to meet its own standards for protecting civilians from being killed in the ongoing military operation. “The President is concerned about the violence that we’ve seen experienced by civilians on both sides of the border. There are reports of Israeli casualties and many more reports of Palestinian casualties. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have been killed. Our condolences are with the Palestinian people and the Israeli people for the losses that they have suffered,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

“What is unacceptable, though, is for Hamas to continue firing rockets aimed squarely at Israeli civilians. That is not a situation that any country could tolerate, and it is why the Israeli political leadership has the right to use their military might to defend their people,” he said.

“At the same time, the Israelis say that they uphold high standards in terms of ensuring that those operations take into account the safety and well-being of innocent civilians. What this escalation in violence makes clear is that Israel must take greater steps to meet its own standards for protecting civilians from being killed. And we’ll continue to send that message directly to the Israelis,” Earnest said. Israel, he said, faces a significant threat from Hamas.

“That is apparent from the barrage of rocket attacks that have been fired off by Hamas. That’s apparent from the infrastructure of tunnels that Hamas has used to carry out acts of violence,” he noted. “What’s also clear is that this Israeli offensive has made progress in dismantling this infrastructure. And again, it is within Israel’s right to take those kinds of steps. At the same time, we also want to make sure that Israel is doing everything that they can to live up to their own standards related to protecting the welfare and well-being of innocent civilian bystanders,” he added.

Earnest said Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and they have taken steps to do exactly that. “We’ve seen their population subjected to repeated volleys of rocket fire. What distinguishes the Hamas actions from the Israeli actions is that Hamas is squarely targeting their rocket fire at innocent Israeli civilians. The Israeli military, on the other hand, does have standards for trying to protect the life of innocent civilians, even innocent Palestinian civilians,” he said.

“What we would like to see, however, is we would like Israel to take greater steps to ensure that they?re living up to those standards,” he added.