In a rare visit, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Israel Sunday for talks with both leaders of the two nuclear powers, after the Pentagon said there was no reason to halt the operation in Gaza that has killed thousands of civilians – but also angered the Palestinians and brought down the already-shuttered security wall.

ALIYAH SAKAR: The United States urged Israel to stop using lethal force against civilians in Gaza during talks brokered by President Joe Biden. “We understand that you have been doing what is called targeted strikes,” Austin told an Israeli delegation, which included his counterpart, Benny Gantz.

“It’s not just about hitting people. It is also about killing civilians,” he said. “We’re here to talk about it.”

Austin emphasized this point again, saying there were “no limits,” and added that U.S. forces would “continue to support” attacks if they are necessary, although he stopped short of providing details.

He said the United States had seen some reports of rocket launches from both sides. But he did not directly address them.

U.S. officials and analysts, including former Army Chief of Staff Gen. David Petraeus, have estimated that between 40,000 and 200,000 people are believed to have died in targeted strikes carried out by Israel in recent months.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that “the use of deadly force is not acceptable under any circumstance.” They noted that the U.S. provided $1 billion in humanitarian aid to Israel.

In response, the IDF said the death toll stood at around 60 dead, which includes many civilians. Both countries blamed each other for the losses.

As part of their meeting, they discussed the need for calm in order to prevent escalation and the formation of terror groups that could harm civilians.

The White House later released an image showing two rockets fired into Gaza from Israel early Friday morning, hitting several homes and injuring children.

The first launched toward Gaza City and exploded on March 1, while the second hit the city, causing damage to structures in Nablus and Khirbet Hadera neighborhoods.

The U.N. human rights office denounced Israel’s actions as “indiscriminate airstrikes” intended to kill civilians in Gaza.

The mission said it was working to verify the claims made and determine whether the incidents constituted war crimes or violations of U.N. convention on the rights of all individuals.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to the media and thanked Israel for its contributions to the cause, saying he hoped both parties would cooperate in ensuring that the situation does not deteriorate further.

“This is my country’s largest humanitarian crisis in decades,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters, adding that she hoped the talks “will be productive”.

She also reiterated Washington’s commitment to helping the Palestinian people as part of efforts for peace.

“We will continue to provide additional assistance,” she said, adding that U.S. policy would remain focused on building “a viable, comprehensive, inclusive and sustainable solution that allows Israelis to live in dignity” and meet the needs of the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the U.S. envoy’s remarks, thanking her “for being sensitive to the plight of our brothers and sisters in Gaza and supporting the path towards a just peace.”

Palestinian Health Minister Mai Al-Sayer also praised the U.S. mission for its contribution and for the meetings. “We appreciate your help,” he tweeted.

Israelis watch closely to see whether this kind of intervention will become routine. And they may be disappointed.

“This is basically a capitulation,” says Ayman al-Bablawi, a member of the executive board in the Military Intelligence wing of the Fatah movement, who supports the armed struggle against the Palestinian Authority. “They’re afraid they’ll be punished.”

In Gaza, the PA maintains control over most of the West Bank Strip, which is used as a launching pad for rockets. Its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has vowed to rebuild the strip.

The PA has also ramped up hostilities with neighboring Egypt and Jordan, accusing them of backing Islamic Jihad, a militant group that seeks to overthrow Abu Mazen – or more commonly known as Fatah – as the representative of the Palestinian people.

In recent weeks, Egyptian intelligence sources confirmed to Reuters that the Egyptians have begun transferring fighters from Sinai Peninsula in preparation for a possible offensive in the West Bank.

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