As Israel and Hamas traded rockets and aerial bombs Tuesday, the State Department called on both sides to "act responsibly" and do everything possible to "de-escalate" the situation.
State also said it was delivering this same message to both sides, Israel and Hamas — the latter is a group State recognizes as a terrorist entity and was firing rockets into southern Israel.
Israeli firefighters try to extinguish a burning factory hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, Saturday. In Washington, the State Department called on both sides to de-escalate the situation. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov)
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki did allow that Israel has the right to defend itself from Hamas attacks from the Gaza Strip.
"We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza," she said. "No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we certainly support Israel's right to defend itself against these attacks."
But she added that Secretary of State John Kerry has been calling on both sides to avoid ramping up tensions in the region.
"He's reiterated our concern, as our teams have on the ground to both sides, about the need to de-escalate tensions on the ground," she said.
When pressed to answer whether either side is acting "responsibly," as the administration wants, Psaki declined to answer.
"I'm not going to get ahead of where we are now. I would remind you that just this past weekend, Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu called for acting responsibly," she said. "We're continuing to convey the need to de-escalate to both sides."
By Tuesday afternoon, there were reports that Israel's Iron Dome missile defense shield had intercepted two Hamas rockets. In retaliation, Israel used planes and surface ships to bomb the Gaza Strip in an attempt to root out the Hamas militants.
At the State Department, Psaki was asked whether the U.S. believes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas bears any responsibility for the attacks. Psaki said the U.S. wants Abbas to do what he can as well, but Hamas controls Gaza, not the Palestinian Authority, which means Abbas faces "limitations" as to what is possible.