Blinken affirms prelim report saying Israel violated humanitarian law in Gaza: ‘Reasonable

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said he agrees with the preliminary State Department report that declared it is “reasonable to assess” Israel violated international humanitarian law in Gaza.

“Given the totality of what we’ve seen in terms of civilian suffering; in terms of children, women, men caught in the crossfire of Hamas’ making — who have been killed and injured, it’s reasonable to assess that in a number of instances, Israel has not acted in a manner that’s consistent with international humanitarian law,” Blinken told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“Our assessments will be ongoing,” he added, stressing that the department hasn’t yet drawn “definitive conclusions.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday highlighted the complexity of mounting a war against Hamas given its proclivity for hiding in civilian enclaves. AP

Bliken explained that the Israelis have their own internal processes to investigate alleged infractions.

He also defended the Biden administration’s controversial decision to halt a shipment of roughly 3,500 bombs to Israel as it battles Hamas.

On Friday, the State Department dropped a report laying out its humanitarian assessment but stopped short of laying out finalized conclusions or recommendations.

“Israel has the ability, the means and the actions to self-correct,” Blinken said.

During a recent interview with TV’s “Dr. Phil” McGraw, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that during the war against Hamas, roughly 16,000 civilians were killed along with 14,000 terrorists.

Blinken confirmed that the US shares Israel’s assessment that more civilians have been killed than terrorists.

“There’s a gap between the stated intent and some of the results we’ve seen because it’s so complicated … in the midst of a war where you have an enemy that hides civilian infrastructure, hides behind civilians, to make final determinations,” Blinken said.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently acknowledged that the civilian death toll in the Gaza Strip exceeded that of the terrorists’. REUTERS

Last week, President Biden confirmed reports that the US halted the shipment of 2,000-pound bombs to Israel over a standoff with America’s ally involving its plans to invade the civilian-packed southern Gazan city of Rafah, considered the final Hamas stronghold.

The White House move prompted a wave of backlash from Republicans and even some Democrats such as Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

“No president has done more to defend Israel when it really mattered than Joe Biden,” Blinken declared. “He was there in Israel in the days after October 7, the first American president to go to Israel in the midst of a war.”

“When Iran mounted an unprecedented attack on Israel launching 300 projectiles, including ballistic missiles, the United States for the first time ever participated in Israel’s active defense.”

Blinken explained that the halt in weapon shipments to Israel is limited to the high payload bombs.

Israel has faced mounting international pressure to wrap up its war against Hamas. Getty Images

“The only thing that we’ve delayed and are holding back are these high payload [most powerful] bombs because we’re in an ongoing conversation with Israel, given the impact that those weapons can have when they’re used in densely populated areas,” the secretary of state said.

Netanyahu has long vowed to roll into Rafah, which is home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who fled the fighting up north and settled in tents during the war.

Some estimates pegged the number at 1.5 million Gazan refugees in Rafah, though Israel has moved to evacuate some of them in the time since.

President Biden has tried to navigate the thorny domestic politics of the Israel-Hamas war. via REUTERS

Given the large quantity of civilians, the Biden administration has demanded a credible plan from Israel to protect the refugees there before the Jewish state launches any major ground operation.

“We also need to see a plan for what happens after this conflict in Gaza is over,” Blinken said Sunday. “We have the same objective as Israel. We want to make sure that Hamas cannot take over Gaza. We want to make sure it’s demilitarized.”

Blinken also briefly weighed in on Ukraine’s war to fend off Russian invaders and surmised that the delay in the roughly $61 billion in US aid to Kyiv has led to significant battlefield setbacks.

“There’s no doubt there’s been a cost in the months-long delay in getting the supplementary budget request approved and equipment sent out to Ukraine,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to rush this assistance out there.”

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