Blinken delivers some of the strongest US public criticism of Israel's conduct of the war in Gaza

AP , Sunday 12 May 2024

​Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday delivered some of the Biden administration’s strongest public criticism yet of Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza, saying Israeli tactics have meant “a horrible loss of life of innocent civilians” but failed to neutralize Hamas leaders and fighters and could drive a lasting insurgency.

Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. AP


In a pair of TV interviews, Blinken underscored that the United States believes Israeli forces should “get out of Gaza,” but also is waiting to see credible plans from Israel for security and governance in the territory after the war.

Hamas has reemerged in parts of Gaza, Blinken said, and that “heavy action” by Israeli forces in the southern city of Rafah risks leaving America's closest Mideast ally “holding the bag on an enduring insurgency."

He said the United States has worked with Arab countries and others for weeks on developing “credible plans for security, for governance, for rebuilding'' in Gaza, but ”we haven’t seen that come from Israel. ... We need to see that, too."

Blinken also said that as Israel pushes deeper in Rafah in the south, where Israel says Hamas has four battalions and where more than 1 million civilians have massed a military operation may “have some initial success" but risks “terrible harm” to the population without solving a problem “that both of us want to solve, which is making sure Hamas cannot again govern Gaza.”

Israel's conduct of the war, he said, has put the country “on the trajectory, potentially, to inherit an insurgency with many armed Hamas left or, if it leaves, a vacuum filled by chaos, filled by anarchy, and probably refilled by Hamas. We’ve been talking to them about a much better way of getting an enduring result, enduring security.”

Blinken also echoed for the first time publicly by a US official the findings of a new Biden administration report to Congress on Friday that said Israel’s use of US-provided weapons in Gaza likely violated international humanitarian law.

The report also said wartime conditions prevented American officials from determining that for certain in specific airstrikes.

“When it comes to the use of weapons, concerns about incidents where given the totality of the damage that’s been done to children, women, men, it was reasonable to assess that, in certain instances, Israel acted in ways that are not consistent with international humanitarian law,” Blinken said. He cited “the horrible loss of life of innocent civilians.”

Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, in a call Sunday with his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, raised concerns about a military ground operation in Rafah and discussed “alternative courses of action" that would ensure Hamas is defeated “everywhere in Gaza,” according to a White House summary of the conversation. Hanegbi “confirmed that Israel is taking US concerns into account,” the White House said.

Since the war began on Oct. 7, Israel's brutal military campaign on the Gaza Strip has killed at least 35,034 Palestinians, 70% of them women and children, with another 78,755 people wounded, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

US and UN officials say Israeli restrictions on food shipments since Oct. 7 have brought on full-fledged famine in northern Gaza.

Tensions between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about how the war, as well as domestic tensions about US support for Israel with protests on US college campuses and many Republican lawmakers saying that Biden needs to give Israel whatever it needs. The issue could play a major role in the outcome of November's presidential election.

Biden said in an interview last week with CNN that his administration would not provide weapons that Israel could use for an all-out assault in Rafah.

Blinken appeared on CBS' “Face the Nation” and NBC's “Meet the Press.”

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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