US Defense Secretary Talks To Israel About More ‘Surgical’ Approach In Gaza


U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has stressed the importance of Israel curbing civilian casualties in densely populated Gaza and reiterated the “unshakable” U.S. commitment to supporting Israel in its war against Hamas. 

During a joint press conference in Israel with counterpart Yoav Gallant, Austin called for the return of the rest of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and affirmed “Israel’s bedrock right” to self-defense. He added that the United States “will continue to urge the protection of civilians during conflict and to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

“We also have some great thoughts about how to transition from high-intensity operations to lower intensity and more surgical operations,” Austin said. “We had great discussions on all of those issues.”

Austin also called for a post-war, two-state solution between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, stressing that instability and insecurity only play in the hands of Hamas.

Israeli Defense Minister Gallant said Israel will gradually transition to the next phase of its operations in Gaza allowing the local population to first return to the north of the coastal strip.

“In every area where we achieve our mission, we will be able to transition gradually to the next phase and start working on bringing back the local population,” Gallant said. “That means that it can be achieved maybe sooner in the north rather than in the south.”

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council could vote Monday on a resolution calling for a humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

The draft Security Council resolution, seen by multiple news agencies, calls for “an urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access.”

Human Rights Watch said Monday that the Israeli government “is using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in the occupied Gaza Strip, which is a war crime.” The organization stated that high-ranking Israeli officials, “have made public statements expressing their aim to deprive civilians in Gaza of food, water and fuel – statements reflecting a policy being carried out by Israeli forces.”

Human Rights Watch added, “Other Israeli officials have publicly stated that humanitarian aid to Gaza would be conditioned either on the release of hostages unlawfully held by Hamas or Hamas’ destruction.” Israel has not responded to the report.

Truckloads of aid have been reaching Gaza, and Israel last week opened another crossing for deliveries to enter, but the U.N. humanitarian agency said the 121 trucks that entered Saturday were far below the 500 per day that were carrying aid to Gaza before the war.

A Security Council resolution earlier this month calling for a humanitarian cease-fire failed as the United States used its veto to halt the measure. The U.S. and Israel have argued that a cease-fire would benefit Hamas.

The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly supported a similar resolution shortly after, but its resolutions are non-binding.

During a visit to Israel Sunday, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna called for an “immediate truce” aimed at releasing more hostages, getting larger amounts of aid into Gaza and moving toward “the beginning of a political solution.”

British Foreign Minister David Cameron and his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, also called for a “sustainable cease-fire” in Gaza in a joint article published in Britain’s The Sunday Times.

“Israel will not win this war if its operations destroy the prospect of peaceful co-existence with Palestinians,” they wrote.

Israel vowed to destroy Hamas, which governs Gaza, after the militant group sent fighters into Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians. Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and others, also took about 240 people hostage. More than 100 of the hostages remain in Gaza.

The Israeli offensive has killed more than 19,400 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, says the conflict has forced an estimated 85% of Gaza’s population from their homes, with many of them trying to find a safe place to stay at U.N. shelters in southern Gaza that are several times over their intended capacity.

UNRWA said 135 of its staff members have been killed and 115 of its installations damaged since the conflict began in early October.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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