US envoy backpedals after tweet bemoaning West Bank deaths sparks Israeli protest

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US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides issued two condemnations of a terror shooting in the West Bank, after some Israelis charged that his initial statement drew a false equivalency between the victims of the attack in Eli and Palestinians killed in intense clashes with IDF troops.

Four Israelis were killed and four more injured Tuesday when two Palestinian terrorists opened fire on Israelis at a gas station and an adjacent restaurant outside the central West Bank settlement of Eli Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, six Palestinians were killed and nearly 100 were wounded during an IDF raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin. Eight IDF soldiers sustained light-to-moderate injuries in the clashes and from a massive roadside bomb that detonated next to an army vehicle.

After the Tuesday attack, Nides first tweeted that he was “deeply concerned about the civilian deaths and injuries that have occurred in the West Bank these past 48 hours, including that of minors. Praying for the families as they mourn the loss of loved ones, or tend to those injured.”

He immediately came under fire from mostly right-wing figures, including a pair of coalition lawmakers.

“Mr. Ambassador, It seems that you are confused – there are no ‘civilian deaths’ here, there are despicable murderers on the one hand and people defending their lives on the other,” tweeted MK Ohad Tal of the far-right Religious Zionism party. “As a senior diplomat, you should know how to differentiate between good and evil and between light and darkness.”

Likud MK Eliyahu Revivo also chimed in, tweeting that “this is not about ‘deaths’ but a massacre carried out by despicable and vile murderers.”

United States Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides speaks at the Herzliya Conference on May 22, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

He accused Nides of trying to draw an equivalency between the Eli and Jenin incidents and said the US should be teaching the UN how to respond to such attacks “rather than learning from them.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog also appeared to chide his counterpart, albeit without mentioning Nides by name.

“Any attempt of a so-called ‘balanced’ condemnation is misguided and disrespectful to the memory of the victims,” Herzog tweeted shortly after the US envoy posted.

An hour after his initial tweet, Nides posted again, this time writing that “I condemn in the strongest terms the senseless murder of four innocent Israelis today — my heart is with their grieving family members.”

A separate statement from the State Department partially echoed Nides’s original sentiment, expressing “concern … about the continuation of violence in Israel and the West Bank in recent weeks that has killed and injured Palestinian and Israeli civilians.”

Smoke billows from the aftermath of the detonation of a Palestinian explosive charge on an Israeli armored vehicle during an Israeli army raid in Jenin in the West Bank on June 19, 2023. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

But the statement also included clear condemnation of “the terrorist attack against Israelis near Eli in the West Bank today.”

Israeli troops entered Jenin in the early morning hours of Monday to arrest two wanted suspects, the Israel Defense Forces and Border Police said in a statement, following intense gun battles that included the first use of a helicopter gunship in the West Bank in decades.

“During the activity, a massive exchange of fire took place between the forces and armed gunmen in the area. Large numbers of explosive devices were hurled at the forces. The forces responded with live fire,” the statement said, adding that several suspects were hit.

An Israeli Air Force AH-64 Apache attack helicopter releases flares during an Israeli army raid in Jenin in the West Bank on June 19, 2023. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Three of the six slain Palestinians were named as members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad by the terror group.

The raid has sparked widespread condemnation from Arab countries as well as Western allies, such as France, which on Tuesday offered “condolences to the families of the civilian victims” in Jenin.

France “once again reiterates Israel’s obligation to abide by international humanitarian law, use proportionate force and ensure the imperative protection of civilians in the occupied Palestinian Territories,” the statement read.

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