U.S. State Department
Spokesman Richard Boucher declined to be drawn into assigning blame in an incident in which a 10-year-old Palestinian girl, Noran Iyad Deeb, was killed and a 7-year-old friend, Aisha al Khatib, was wounded in the arm at Rafah in southern Gaza.
Palestinians say the fatal shots were fired by an Israeli
soldier on Monday, Jan. 31, but Israel contends the shots may have been fired by Palestinians
shooting into the air in celebration of their return from a pilgrimage to Mecca. Following the
fatal incident, Palestinians fired mortars at Israeli settlements in Gaza, but caused no injury.
Asked about the incident at his daily briefing today, Boucher responded: "We're always concerned about the death of civilians, particularly innocent children. We make every effort to stop the violence, to encourage the parties to prevent the violence. And then there was -- after that there was then mortars and shells coming back in the other direction towards Israel. So we're trying to work with both parties, with both Israelis and Palestinians, to stop the violence, to succeed in the withdrawals, to try to make the situation more peaceful for the sake of Israeli families, Palestinian families, alike.
"What is important is that we all take these opportunities to move forward, we all take the opportunities to stop the violence, because it deeply matters to people, particularly civilians, that they get their lives back in safety," Boucher continued.
"We know that there will be ups and downs. There will be setbacks. There may be difficulties along the way in terms of how smoothly this proceeds," the State Department spokesman said. "But it's very important to people and the opportunities that are opened up need to be seized by both sides. They need to find ways to proceed down this road peacefully together and not allow the violence to continue or allow the violence to distract them from that effort."
To a question about whether efforts by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was effective in trying to control mortar firing on Israeli towns, Boucher had this
"I think we've noted the efforts that have been made. We think these are positive. These are solid. They have had, apparently, some effect. But we all know that as long as violence continues, as long as you have reaction and counter-reaction, that there will be lives lost. And that is what everybody needs to work on stopping. And so as long as this goes on, the Palestinian side needs to do more to control the source of the violence in Palestinian areas and we believe the Israelis, as they are doing, should work with them and cooperate with them in trying to help stop the violence for everybody."