White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that plans to evict dozens of Palestinians from an east Jerusalem neighborhood work "against" U.S.-Israeli interests in finding a solution to the conflict and condemned "extremism that has inflicted violence on both communities."
Psaki reiterated the administration’s support for a two-state solution.
Biden's "team is communicating a clear and consistent message in support of de-escalation," Psaki told reporters. "That is our primary focus. The president's support for Israel's security, for its legitimate right to defend itself and its people is fundamental and will never waver."
She condemned rocket attacks against Israel by Hamas and other terrorist groups but highlighted the rights of Palestinians as well as Israelis.
"We believe Palestinians and Israelis deserve equal measures of freedom, security, dignity and prosperity," she continued. "And U.S. officials in recent weeks have spoken candidly with Israeli officials about how evictions of Palestinian families who have lived for years, sometimes decades in their homes and of demolitions of these homes work against our common interests in achieving a solution to the conflict in the coming days, as Muslims gather with family and friends to celebrate Eid and Dawn together to mark the beginning of Shabbat, let us affirm that all people of faith deserve to enjoy these important celebrations without fear of violence."
Tensions have risen in recent weeks between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters over plans to evict a number of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. But another flashpoint in the Old City has been the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam and the holiest site of Judaism, which refers to it as the Temple Mount. Hamas, the militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, had given Israel a deadline to withdraw its security forces from the Al-Aqsa compound, and when the deadline expired, fired a barrage of 600 rockets into Israel, setting off air raid sirens.
Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza, killing 28 people, including 10 children, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Israeli military said three Israelis had been killed by Hamas’ rocket fire. The military said it was investigating reports that children had been killed, and some casualties could have been the result of rockets sent from Gaza that exploded before reaching Israel.
The clash had begun Friday when Palestinians threw stones at Israeli police occupying the temple. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Current rules state that tourists can visit the site but only Muslims are allowed to pray there. But in recent years, Jews escorted by police have been holding prayer there. Some Israelis believe the site should be open to all worshippers, but Palestinians have refused.
The White House’s criticism of Israel stands in stark contrast to the approach under former President Trump. "When I was in office we were known as the Peace Presidency, because Israel’s adversaries knew that the United States stood strongly with Israel and there would be swift retribution if Israel was attacked. Under Biden, the world is getting more violent and more unstable because Biden’s weakness, and lack of support for Israel is leading to new attacks on our allies," the former president said in a statement on the attacks.
"America must always stand with Israel and make clear that the Palestinians must end the violence, terror, and rocket attacks, and make clear that the U.S. will always strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself. Unbelievably, Democrats also continue to stand by crazed anti-American Rep. Ilhan Omar, and others, who savagely attack Israel while they are under terrorist assault."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.