White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby on Monday (local time) said that he thinks Israel is “certainly” making an effort to minimise humanitarian casualties in Gaza. While addressing a press briefing on Monday (local time), he said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken about the efforts that they are making to try to avoid civilian casualties. He noted that there have been civilian casualties amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas and added that the Israel Defence Force’s goal is to go after Hamas terrorists and not after civilians.
Asked whether US President Joe Biden feels that Israel abides by the rule of war, Kirby said, “Without getting into, reacting to events on the ground in real-time, which we are just not going to do, this is a conversation we consistently have had with our Israeli counterparts. As you rightly know, that was part of the discussion yesterday with the prime minister, and you heard the prime minister today speaking in Tel Aviv about the efforts that they’re undertaking to try to avoid civilian casualties, and I think that they certainly are making that effort.” “It doesn’t mean that there haven’t been civilian casualties tragically, there have been many, thousands of them, but unlike Putin in Ukraine, and unlike what Hamas did on October 7, killing civilians is not a war aim of the Israeli Defence Forces. Their war aim is to go after Hamas terrorists, terrorists I might add, that are using innocent Palestinians as human shields,” he added.
John Kirby that Netanyahu brings up the issue of civilian casualties in Gaza in conversations with US President Joe Biden and that both leaders “recognise that as democracies, it’s important to abide by the law of war, to protect innocent life and to and to try to minimise civilian casualties.” In response to a question on why Biden is repeatedly calling for fighting the war in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law, he said, “Because it is something that even the Prime Minister brings up in the conversation. They both recognise that as democracies, it’s important to abide by the law of war, to protect innocent life and to try to minimise civilian casualties. It’s not a lecturing, it’s a reminder from two leaders of two vibrant democracies, that this is what separates us from folks like Hamas.” He noted that there is not a single conversation that the US has not had with Israeli counterparts to better understand what efforts they are making to minimise civilian casualties. He said that the US is leading the effort to try to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza.
“There’s not a single conversation we haven’t had with our Israeli counterparts to better understand what they’re doing to try to minimise civilian casualties and again, as friends can and friends should do with one another, to make sure that we’re on the same page about that,” he said. “And the United States is literally leading the effort to try to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza and if it wasn’t, quite frankly, for American leadership, I don’t think you’d see in fact, I know you wouldn’t see the increase of the aid getting in. Again, we know that there’s a lot that needs to be done. But, it’s because of the American leadership on the ground and American convening power that we are able to get that aid in and …We are really working very hard at this. Every single innocent life lost is a tragedy. Everyone whether it is a Palestinian life lost or an Israeli life lost, everyone should be prevented. There is no reason for these families to keep grieving and we are going to keep doing everything we can to work with Israeli counterparts on the minimisation of civilian casualties,” he added.
John Kirby’s remarks come after Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back on criticism about civilian casualties and said Hamas was preventing civilians from moving to the safe zone in southern Gaza, The Times of Israel reported. While addressing a press briefing, Netanyahu said, “Not a single civilian has to die. Hamas has to merely let them go to the safe zone.” He noted, “Hamas is preventing them from leaving, keeping them in the areas of conflict.” He said the question should be directed to Hamas and added that Israel is “going out of our way” to avoid civilian casualties. “We cannot give immunity to these terrorists… these savages. We have to do everything we can to minimise civilian casualties. But we cannot give up the fight… This is a battle of civilisation against barbarians,” he said, according to The Times of Israel report.
He spoke about the Royal Air Force bombing of a Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen in 1944. He said, “The British pilots missed” and hit a children’s hospital nearby which he said caused the death of 84 children. Netanyahu said, “That is not a war crime. That is not something you blamed Britain for doing. That was a legitimate act of war with tragic consequences that accompany such legitimate actions,” The Times of Israel reported. He noted, “And you didn’t tell the Allies, don’t stamp out Nazism because of such tragic consequences… They knew that the future of our civilisation was at stake. Well, I’m telling you right now that the future of our civilisation is at stake. We have to win this war. We’ll do it by minimising civilian casualties. And may we succeed.”