Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Pentagon chief says there’s no evidence Israel has committed genocide in Gaza

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin claims there is no evidence that Israel is committing genocide in the Gaza Strip. Israel's war against the Gaza-based Palestinian group Hamas has so far killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, mainly children and women.

Austin, speaking during a Senate Armed Services hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, denied that Israel is committing a genocide after protesters interrupted the committee and called for the U.S. to stop funding the war, which they referred to as a genocide.

“We don’t have any evidence of genocide,” Austin said after a question from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) to respond to the protesters.

Austin also avoided referring to the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on southern Israel as a genocide after questioning from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member on the committee.

“It certainly is a war crime,” Austin said of the Oct. 7 attacks after Wicker repeatedly pressed him on referring to it as a genocide.

Hamas killed more than 1,100 people in the attack and took 250 hostages. About 100 hostages are believed to still be alive in Gaza and held by Hamas.

Israel has killed over 33,000 Palestinians in its response, while triggering fears of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza as people fled to the southern part of the territory.

South Africa in late 2023 filed a case at the United Nations top court, the International Court of Justice, accusing Israel of carrying out a genocide in Gaza. The case is expected to take years to be resolved.

The ICJ has never officially ruled a nation has carried out a genocide before. To declare a genocide, it would have to meet certain definitions under the Genocide Convention.

The Joe Biden administration has come under increasing pressure from the left to back a permanent cease-fire in Gaza and to withhold arms to Israel. The president has accused Israel’s government of going over the top with its response while urging it to do more to protect civilians, but he has held off on demanding a permanent cease-fire.

Austin at the hearing stated the U.S. is committed to defending Israel in the wake of the Hamas attacks.

“I would remind everybody that what happened on Oct. 7 was absolutely horrible,” he continued, adding, “Numbers of Israeli citizens killed, and then a couple hundred Israeli citizens taken hostage American citizens as well as American citizens.”

Austin also said Israel must do more to protect civilians.

“Far too many civilians have been killed as a result of combat operations,” he stated, adding, “They need to get civilians out of that battle space.”

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