NBC White House correspondent Peter Alexander asked the White House Monday if it believed Israel should "kill at will" during questions about violence at the Gaza Strip.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said responsibility for the violence along the border fence "rests squarely with Hamas," the militant terrorist organization that governs the Palestinian territory. Mass protests have broken out again in response to the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recently recognized by the U.S. as Israel's capital.
Recent Stories in National Security
Alexander quoted French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who issued a statement Monday calling on Israel to use proportionate force and "exercise discernment and restraint."
"So, to be clear, does the U.S. not agree with the French, that Israeli authorities should exercise discretion and restraint?" Alexander asked Shah.
"We believe that Hamas is responsible for what's going on," Shah said.
"So there's no responsibility beyond that on the Israeli authorities, kill at will?" Alexander asked.
"What I'm saying is that we believe that Hamas as an organization is engaged in cynical action that's leading to these deaths," Shah said.
In response to attempts to breach the border fence between Israel and Gaza, Israeli forces have reportedly killed more than 50 Palestinians during violent protests. Demonstrators have hurled Molotov cocktails, thrown stones and launched incendiary kites. One 23-year-old Palestinian told the Washington Post, he was excited to "storm and get inside. If he got inside Israel, he would do "whatever is possible, to kill, throw stones."
The Israel Defense Forces said at least 35,000 people were protesting in 12 different places along the fence, according to the Post.