Blinken: Israel Failing To Protect As Many Civilians As Possible 


The United States, Israel’s staunchest supporter in its war against Hamas militants, said Sunday that the Israeli military is failing in its announced intention to protect as many Palestinian civilians as possible who are trying to flee Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip.

“It’s imperative that civilians be protected,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN’s “State of the Union” show. He said Israel had fallen short in protecting Palestinian civilians as it continues its offensive against the militants in the narrow enclave along the Mediterranean Sea.

The top U.S. diplomat said, “What we’re not seeing are deconfliction times so [more humanitarian] aid can be brought in” to Gaza and “clarity of demarcation” lines for areas where Israel will not attack so civilians can find safe refuge.

“We think there’s a need for increased effort to protect civilians,” Blinken said, so “the gap” between what Israel has promised, to protect civilians, and the reality, that thousands have been killed, “is as narrow as possible.”

As it stands, he told ABC’s “This Week” show, “There is a gap between their intent and results.”

The Hamas-run health ministry says that more than 17,000 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in the Israeli air and ground offensive in the last seven weeks, after Hamas militants invaded southern Israel in a surprise attack on October 7 and killed about 1,200 people and captured about 240 hostages. Hamas is still holding about 140 people.

Blinken said, “Everyone wants to see [the war] end as quickly possible,” but that it was up to Israel to decide when to call off its attack. He said Hamas could also end its attacks on Israel and free the remaining hostages.

But he said, “When the major military campaign ends, this is not over.” He said there would not be a lasting peace for Israel “unless Palestinian aspirations are met.”

Israel continued to pound Gaza targets on Sunday, with the military saying it had struck more than 250 targets in the past 24 hours, including some in the south near Khan Younis, but also the Shajaiya neighborhood of Gaza City in the north.

Palestinians were told to evacuate to southern Gaza to avoid the fighting in the north but often have been unable to find a safe territory to avoid the Israeli attacks. Israel says Hamas fighters have embedded themselves among the civilians to act as shields from the Israeli attacks, a charge Hamas has rejected.

The humanitarian crisis has worsened, with nine out of 10 people in Gaza unable to eat every day, according to Carl Skau, deputy director of the World Food Program.

The Israeli military says its offensive must go forward to erase Hamas control of Gaza and that it is expanding its operations in the southern Gaza Strip.

“Any death and pain to a civilian is painful, but we don’t have an alternative,” Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told the BBC Saturday.

Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, has said Israeli forces have killed at least 7,000 Hamas militants so far, but did not say how that estimate was reached.

The World Health Organization’s executive board was meeting Sunday to discuss the health situation in Gaza.

The United States is supplying Israel with ammunition for its fight against Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group.

The U.S. State Department has approved the emergency sale of 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition to Israel for about $106.5 million, the Biden administration said Saturday.

The State Department said it had notified Congress of the sale late Friday after Blinken determined “an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale” of the munitions in the U.S. national security interest.

The purchase will bypass congressional review, which is usually a requirement for foreign military sales. The action is rare, though not unheard of, when U.S. administrations see an urgent need for weapons to be delivered without waiting for lawmakers’ approval. At least four administrations have used the authority since 1979.

“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives,” the State Department said in a statement. The ammunition would come from U.S. inventory.

The sale will be from U.S. Army inventory and consist of 120mm M830A1 High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer tank cartridges and related equipment, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The move comes as President Joe Biden’s request for a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security interests is languishing in Congress, caught up in a debate over U.S. immigration policy and security along the southwestern border with Mexico.

US veto

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his appreciation Saturday for the U.S. veto at the U.N. Security Council, blocking a demand for a cease-fire in Gaza.

“Other countries must also understand that it’s impossible to support the elimination of Hamas on one side, and on the other to call for the end of the war, which will prevent the elimination of Hamas,” Netanyahu said. “Therefore, Israel will continue our just war to eliminate Hamas and achieve the war’s other objectives that we set.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Saturday for the Security Council to be reformed, decrying the fact that the United States could veto a cease-fire proposal for Gaza despite huge support from other countries.

“The United Nations Security Council demand for cease-fire is rejected only by U.S. veto. Is this justice?” Erdogan said at a human rights conference in Istanbul.

Agnes Callamard, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, also disagreed with the U.S. veto, calling it “morally indefensible and a dereliction of the U.S. duty to prevent atrocity crimes and uphold international law.”

The U.S. reasoning against a cease-fire is that it would allow Hamas to regroup and carry out new incursions. Washington instead supports pauses in fighting to protect civilians and allow the release of hostages taken by the militants during the October attack on Israel.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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