Friday, May 24, 2024

US says no ‘red lines’ for Israel but warns against Rafah invasion

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated there are no "red lines" that would prompt Washington to cease backing Tel Aviv in its war with Hamas but warned the Israeli army against launching a full-scale ground offensive against the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Blinken stressed the Joe Biden administration’s opposition to a comprehensive attack on Rafah on NBC’s “Meet the Press” show.

He emphasized that Israel has not yet presented a credible plan to protect the city’s nearly 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants and warned that an Israeli offensive could foster an insurgency by failing to eliminate all the Hamas fighters there.

Blinken confirmed the Biden administration’s unwavering support for Israel since the war began on Oct. 7 last year but suggested suspending arms supplies to Tel Aviv if it decides to occupy Rafah.

Asked about President Biden’s threat to halt arms sales, he replied: “Look, when it comes to Israel, we don’t talk about red lines.”

He also emphasized the US’s ongoing engagement and resolution of issues with Israel, adding their stance on Rafah is clear but not a red line.

Biden announced Wednesday that he would suspend arms supplies to Israel if a major attack is launched on Rafah, drawing criticism from both the Republican Party and Israel.

Blinken also rejected the accusation the US is attempting to avoid holding Israel accountable for its military campaign amid criticism over the State Department’s recent report on Israeli war conduct.

In a highly anticipated report released last week, the State Department concluded it was “reasonable to assess” Israel violated international humanitarian law while stopping short of determining wrongdoing as it did not find specific instances of violations.

When asked on NBC News’s “Meet the Press”, if the US is trying to avoid holding Israel accountable for its actions, Blinken said, “No. We don’t have double standards.”

“We treat Israel, one of our closest allies and partners, just as we would treat any other country, including in assessing something like international humanitarian law and its compliance with that law,” Blinken stated, adding later, “The report also makes clear that this is an incredibly complex military environment. You have an enemy that intentionally embeds itself with civilians, hiding under and within schools, mosques, apartment buildings, firing at the Israeli forces from those places.”

The report pointed to the climbing death toll in Gaza, which is now up to more than 35,000, per local health officials, and said there were “sufficient reported incidents to raise serious concerns” about how Israel has conducted its wartime campaign against Hamas.

“What the report concludes is that, based on the totality of the harm that’s been done to children, to women, to men who are caught in this crossfire of Hamas’ making, it’s reasonable to conclude that there are instances where Israel has acted in ways that are not consistent with international humanitarian law,” Blinken continued.

“At the same time, Kristen, we continue to look at, investigate each of these incidents, but critically, so does Israel.”

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