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OPT: U.S. concerned by civilian casualties from Israeli military action

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The United States is "seriously concerned" about civilian casualties resulting from Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and has urged the Israeli government to facilitate moving humanitarian personnel and supplies into these areas, said State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker.
Briefing reporters at the State Department in Washington 24 February, Reeker said although the United States recognizes Israel's right to self-defense, Israel also needs "to provide medical attention to those in serious need as expeditiously as possible."

The United States is also pressing the Palestinian leadership to do all it can "to end immediately the terror and violence and to work to restore the active security contacts and to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorism and violence," Reeker said.

Achieving President Bush's goal of two states -- Israel and Palestine -- living side by side in peace, is "simply impossible while violence and terrorist attacks continue," Reeker said.

Following is an excerpt containing Reeker's comments on the Middle East peace issue:

(begin excerpt)

QUESTION: Do you have any comment about the Israel military action in the Gaza Strip?

MR. REEKER: Let's see what the latest -- I think, generally, it is important to remind everyone that progress towards the President's vision -- that is, two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security -- progress in that regard is simply impossible while violence and terrorist attacks continue.

We do remain seriously concerned about civilian casualties that continue to result from Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza. As we have said before, we recognize Israel's right to self-defense. There can be no excuse for violence and terrorist attacks like those the Israeli people have been forced to endure.

But we also urge the Israeli Government to facilitate the movement of humanitarian personnel and supplies and to provide medical attention to those in serious need as expeditiously as possible.

We do remain in close communication with Palestinian leaders and with Israeli leaders to calm the situation and try to prevent further bloodshed. We are pressing the Palestinians to do all they can to end immediately the terror and violence and to work to restore the active security contacts and to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorism and violence, and we continue to make our views known to the Israelis as well.

(end excerpt)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)