US prods Israel on civilian casualties

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says that Washington will hold Israel accountable if it violates the law of armed conflict…reports Asian Lite News

The Joe Biden administration has emphasised that the fact that Hamas is using Palestinian civilians as human shields in Gaza, does not lessen Israel’s responsibility of protecting the civilians.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CBS, that the US is “very focused” on how Hamas is using civilians as human shields in Gaza as Israel continues to bombard the territory. Sullivan said Hamas are “hiding behind civilians” as Israel vows to eliminate the group.

“They’re putting rockets and other terrorist infrastructure in civilian areas. That creates an added burden for the Israeli Defence Forces,” he said.

“But it does not lessen their responsibility to distinguish between Hamas and innocent civilians and to protect the lives of innocent civilians as they conduct this military operation. That’s true of striking from the air. It is true of going in on the ground, and this is something that we talk about with the Israelis on a daily basis,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan reiterated that the US has maintained that all innocent lives in Israel and Gaza should be protected.

When asked if the US is requesting the Israeli military “to be more limited in its tactics or more strategic” since the US provides weapons and aid every year to Israel, Sullivan said that they will hold Israel accountable if it violates the law of armed conflict.

“The United States of America, when we transfer weapons to another country, whether it’s Israel or anyone else, requests, requires an assurance that those weapons will be used in accordance with the law of armed conflict, and we seek accountability to ensure that that is the case, we will continue to do that,” Sullivan said.

He added, “And we do not stand for the killing of innocent people, whether it be Palestinian, Israeli or otherwise. And we weep and grieve for every last life and will continue to do so”.

1. An injured child is carried into a hospital after wounded in an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah. (Photo by Khaled Omar/Xinhua/IANS)

‘Preventing aid getting to Gaza could be a crime’

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor warned Sunday that blocking humanitarian aid from entering Gaza could constitute a crime.

“Impeding relief supplies as provided by the Geneva Conventions may constitute a crime within the court jurisdiction,” Karim Khan told reporters in Cairo.

He was speaking after a visit to Egypt’s Rafah crossing, where he said trucks full of desperately needed goods remained stuck and unable to cross into Gaza.

“I saw trucks full of goods, full of humanitarian assistance stuck where nobody needs them, stuck in Egypt, stuck at Rafah,” he said.

“These supplies must get to the civilians of Gaza without delay.”

Rafah is the only entry point through which international aid is currently able to trickle into the Hamas-run Palestinian territory, which is facing a near-total siege and relentless Israeli bombardment.

Israel imposed the siege and unleashed its massive bombing campaign after Hamas gunmen stormed across the border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 230 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Israel’s strikes have since then killed more than 8,000 people, half of them children, the Hamas-controlled health ministry in the territory said.

Since limited aid deliveries resumed through the Rafah crossing on October 21, a total of 117 trucks have entered. Prior to the siege, some 500 trucks carrying aid and other goods entered Gaza every day.

Khan said he wanted “to underline clearly to Israel that there must be discernible efforts without further delay to make sure civilians (in Gaza) receive basic food, medicines.”

On Sunday the United Nations warned it feared a breakdown of public order after looting at food aid centers in Gaza run by its agency for Palestinian refugees, the UNRWA.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said the situation was “growing more desperate by the hour” as casualty numbers increase and essential supplies of food, water, medicine and shelter dwindle.

Khan said his office had an ongoing investigation into “any crimes committed on the territory of Palestine and any crimes committed, whether it’s by Israel and Palestine or whether it’s acts committed on the territory of Palestine or from Palestine into Israel.”

“This includes current events in Gaza and also current events in the West Bank,” Khan said. He said he was “very concerned also by the spike of the number of reported incidents of attack by settlers against Palestinian civilians” in the territory Israel has occupied since 1967.

Khan also stressed that hostage-taking was a breach of the Geneva Conventions. “I call for the immediate release of all hostages taken from Israel and for their safe return to their families,” he said.

The British lawyer said “Israel has clear obligations in relation to its war with Hamas, not just moral obligations but legal obligations” to comply with the laws of conflict.

“These principles equally apply to Hamas in relation to firing indiscriminate rockets into Israel,” he said. Set up in 2002, the ICC is the only global independent tribunal to probe the world’s worst crimes including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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