White House says Israel 'making effort' to protect Gaza civilians

AFP , Sunday 3 Dec 2023

The White House believes Israel is "making an effort" to minimize civilian deaths in Gaza, a senior official said Sunday, as international concern mounted over the numbers killed in the resumed war.

John Kirby
File Photo: National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington. AP

 

Speaking on the US Sunday talk shows, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also insisted that US intelligence was unaware of any secret, advance Hamas blueprint for its October 7 offensive on Israel that triggered the war.

The New York Times reported last week that Israeli authorities had obtained such a document a year before the offensive occurred.

According to the Palesrtinian health ministry, more than 15,300 people have been killed in Gaza since the beginning of the war, but Kirby told ABC's "This Week" that Israel had responded to US appeals to protect civilians.

"We believe they have been receptive to our messages here of trying to minimalize civilian casualties," he said, including by publishing online a map of places where Gaza residents could go to find safety.

"There's not a whole lot of modern militaries that would do that... to telegraph their punches in that way. So they are making an effort."

His comments came as Israel has resumed its intensive air and ground campaign following a week-long truce.

Ron Dermer, Israel's minister of strategic affairs, insisted on ABC that efforts to minimize civilian casualties were deliberate and "unprecedented."

"If we wanted to do it fast," he said, "we'd harm a lot more civilians."

International concern has been intensifying over the toll in Gaza.

"I cannot find words strong enough to express our concern over what we're witnessing," the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Sunday on X, formerly Twitter, demanding a "Ceasefire. NOW."

Kirby was also asked about the New York Times report on the Hamas offensive plan, which the newspaper said Israeli officials had dismissed as beyond the militant group's ability to carry out.

"Our intelligence community is taking a look into that," Kirby said, while adding that there were "no indications that we, the United States intelligence community, had any knowledge of that document beforehand or any visibility into it."

The unprecedented October 7 assault on southern Israel killed 1,200 people, and more than 240 people were taken captives, according to Israeli authorities.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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