ABC News' Sunlen Miller and Jon Garcia report:
With more than a dozen dead in Palestinian protests along the Israeli border over the weekend, White Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One that administration officials “regret the loss of life, and our thoughts are with the families of loved ones of those killed and wounded. Israel like all countries has the right to prevent unauthorized crossings at its borders. Its neighbors have a responsibility to prevent such activity.”
Carney also said the administration is “strongly opposed to the Syrian government's involvement in inciting yesterday's protests in the Golan Heights.”
“Such behavior is unacceptable and does not serve as a distraction from the Syrian govt's ongoing repression of demonstrators in its own country," Carney said, adding that Syrian President Bashar Assad was inciting the protests to deflect attention from his own internal crackdown on demonstrations.
"We certainly think that there's a history of that and it seems apparent to us that that is an effort to distract attention from the legitimate expressions of protest by the Syrian people and from the harsh crackdown that the Syrian govt has perpetrated against its own people," Carney said.
Still on the topic of Middle East activity, Carney reminded the press that the president will be speaking about the progress and change in the region in a speech this coming Thursday, though he declined to talk about specifics of the speech.
“(The speech) will address where we are in this remarkable period. It will also address how he approaches the kind of historic change we’ve seen in the region and where he thinks we’re headed … in terms of our policy in the region and the region itself,” Carney said, adding that the departure of former Sen. George Mitchell, Obama’s special envoy to the Mideast, won’t mean a change in policy.
Carney declined to comment on arrest of International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York over the weekend but hastened to add that the White House “note(s) that the IMF has said they have appointed an acting director and the IMF remains fully functional and we remain confident in the institution of the IMF and its ability to continue to execute its mission effectively,” Carney said.
Carney made the comments on the way to Memphis, Tenn., where President Obama will address the graduates at Booker T. Washington High School, winners of the White House sponsored “2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.” While in Memphis, Obama will meet with families affected by and emergency personnel who are responding to the historic flooding that has devastated the Mississippi river valley. The president, however, will not be touring the flood damage.