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US Urges Israel to Use Restraint in Military Operations - 2003-02-20

The United States expressed renewed concern Wednesday about Palestinian civilian casualties stemming from Israeli military operations in Gaza. It urged Israel to take appropriate precautions.

The comments here followed an Israeli incursion in Gaza early Wednesday, aimed at what Israel said was the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, that left at least 11 people dead and caused heavy material damage in densely populated Gaza neighborhoods.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States is "very concerned" about civilian casualties, especially among children and young people, resulting from Israeli military operations in Palestinian areas, and pointed out these concerns have been raised with Israeli authorities.

"We've continued to urge the Israeli government to take appropriate precautions to prevent the death or injury of innocent civilians and damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure," he said. "We've also urged the Israeli government to facilitate the movement of humanitarian personnel and supplies, and provide medical attention to those in serious need as expeditiously as possible. We remain in close communication with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to calm the situation and prevent further bloodshed."

Mr. Boucher stressed the United States continues to believe Israel has a right and need to take what he termed "legitimate anti-terrorist actions" and said there can be no excuse for the violence and terror the Israeli people have been forced to endure.

He said progress toward the realization of Palestinian aspirations, including statehood, "is simply impossible" while violence and terrorist attacks continue unabated.

Mr. Boucher said the Bush administration has not given up on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and said Assistant Secretary of State William Burns is in London for a meeting of the so-called "quartet" of Middle East mediators - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

The quartet has been putting finishing touches on a "roadmap" for a two-state settlement of the conflict to be achieved step by step over a three-year span.