17:41 GMT21 June 2021
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin assured Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz of America's continued total support in a telephone conversation, Defence Department spokesperson John Kirby said.

    Israel and Hamas were locked in a bitter conflict for 11 days that concluded with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on 20 May.

    "Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin spoke this afternoon with Israeli Minister of Defence Benjamin 'Benny' Gantz", Kirby said in a readout of the conversation on Friday. "Secretary Austin reaffirmed the United States' ironclad support for Israel's security".

    Austin told Gantz that he shared the Biden administration's support for building on the ceasefire to establish enduring security, Kirby said. Both parties agreed to remain in close contact on shared defence priorities, the readout added.
    U.S. Secretary of Defense  Lloyd J. Austin III arrives for graduation ceremonies for the class of 2021 at the United States Military Academy (USMA) West Point, in Michie Stadium in West Point, New York, U.S., May 22, 2021.
    © REUTERS / MIKE SEGAR
    U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III arrives for graduation ceremonies for the class of 2021 at the United States Military Academy (USMA) West Point, in Michie Stadium in West Point, New York, U.S., May 22, 2021.

    This week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a two-day Middle East visit aimed at solidifying the ceasefire and raising money for reconstruction. One of Washington's goals is to ensure that any assistance be kept out of the hands of Hamas in an effort to contribute to reducing tensions in the region.

    Clashes in East Jerusalem in early May led to the worst violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in recent years. Palestinian militants launched several thousand rockets toward Israel. In response, Israel fired retaliatory strikes against Gaza. In Israel, 12 people were killed and over 50 were seriously wounded during the hostilities. The death toll among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, and the West Bank topped 270, including women and children. About 1,948 Palestinians were injured in the strikes, and more than 112,000 were displaced, according to the United Nations.
    An aerial view of the destroyed building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media, after it was hit last week by Israeli airstrikes, in Gaza City, Saturday, May 22, 2021.
    © AP Photo / Khalil Hamra
    An aerial view of the destroyed building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media, after it was hit last week by Israeli airstrikes, in Gaza City, Saturday, May 22, 2021.

    The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Thursday held a special session on "the grave human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory". Following the session, the council passed a resolution to establish an independent, international panel to investigate all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of international human rights law in Israel and the Palestinian National Authority.

    Israel has refused to cooperate, labelling the UNHRC "a body with a built-in anti-Israel majority". Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the resolution "a mockery of international law".

    Tags:
    Pentagon, deaths, Palestinians, Israel, Gaza Strip, war
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