US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin cautioned Israel that safeguarding the lives of Palestinian civilians in Gaza is not only a moral obligation but also a strategic necessity.
“We will continue to press Israel to protect civilians and to ensure the robust flow of humanitarian aid. First and foremost, that’s the right thing to do. But it’s also good strategy,” Austin told reporters.
Austin compared Israel’s fight against Hamas with the US fight against terrorist organization ISIS in Iraq.
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He said: “I learned a thing or two about urban warfare from my time fighting in Iraq and leading the campaign to defeat ISIS. Like Hamas, ISIS was deeply embedded in urban areas. And the international coalition against ISIS worked hard to protect civilians and create humanitarian corridors, even during the toughest battles.”
Austin went on to stress that “you can only win in urban warfare by protecting civilians.”
He added: “You see, in this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.”
“So, I have repeatedly made clear to Israel’s leaders that protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is both a moral responsibility and a strategic imperative,” he stated.
Palestinian news agency WAFA reported on Saturday that scores of innocent civilians, including children and women, were killed and injured as a result of the Israeli offensive on Gaza. The death toll has surpassed 16,000 Palestinians, 6,500 of them children and more than 4,500 women.
Since the outbreak of the war on October 7, UN organizations and NGOs have decried the abysmal conditions under which Palestinians have struggled to survive, and the barrage of strikes on the enclave that racked up a body count of Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire between Israel and Hamas.