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Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Israel should leave Gaza and ‘act in a manner inconsistent’ with international law

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday issued some of the Biden administration’s strongest public criticisms of Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza. He said Israeli tactics have caused “a terrible loss of life of innocent civilians” but have failed to neutralize Hamas leaders and fighters. could spark a lasting uprising.

In a pair of TV interviews, Blinken underlined that the United States believes Israeli troops should “leave Gaza” but is also waiting for credible plans from Israel for security and governance in the area 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 threatens to leave America’s closest ally in the Middle East “holding the bag for an ongoing insurgency.” ”

He said the United States has been working with Arab countries and others for weeks to develop “credible plans for security, governance and reconstruction” in Gaza, but “we have not seen that come from Israel. … We have to see that too.”

Blinken also said that as Israel pushes deeper into Rafah in the south, where Israel says Hamas has four battalions and where more than 1 million civilians have gathered, a military operation may have “some initial success” but “terrible damage.” ” risks for the population. without solving a problem “that we both want to solve, namely ensuring that Hamas cannot rule Gaza again.”

Israel’s conduct of the war, he said, has put the country “on the path to possibly inheriting an insurgency with many armed Hamas on the left, or, if it goes away, a vacuum filled by chaos, filled by anarchy, and probably again filled by Hamas. . We talked to them about a much better way to achieve a sustainable result and lasting security.”

Blinken also reiterated Friday, for the first time publicly by a US official, the findings of a new Biden administration report to Congress that said Israel’s use of US-supplied weapons in Gaza likely violated international humanitarian law . The report also said that wartime conditions prevented U.S. officials from making that determination with certainty in specific airstrikes.

“When it comes to the use of weapons, the concerns about incidents, given the overall damage caused to children, women and men, it is reasonable to assess that in certain cases Israel has acted in a manner inconsistent with international humanitarian law,” Blinken said. He cited “the terrible loss of life of innocent civilians.”

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, in a phone call on Sunday with his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, expressed concern about a military ground operation in Rafah and discussed “alternative courses of action” that would ensure Hamas is defeated “everywhere in Gaza,” according to reports a summary of the conversation at the White House. Hanegbi “affirmed that Israel is taking American concerns into account,” the White House said.

The war began on October 7 after an attack on Israel by Hamas that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. About 250 people were taken hostage. According to the Israeli Ministry of Health in Gaza, more than 35,000 Palestinians, mainly women and children, have been killed in the Israeli offensive.

US and UN officials say Israeli restrictions on food shipments since October 7 have led to a full-blown famine in northern Gaza.

There are growing tensions between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the way the war has been conducted, as well as domestic tensions over US support for Israel, with protests on US college campuses and many Republican lawmakers saying Biden should give Israel what it wants need. . The issue could play a major role in the outcome of November’s presidential election.

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

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