The United States has intensified its call for Israel to enhance the protection of civilians amidst the ongoing combat operations in Gaza. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking at a forum in California, made a strong case for safeguarding civilians as a core component of Israel’s long-term strategy against Hamas.
Austin's military experience heavily informs his perspective on urban warfare and its complexities. "I learned a thing or two about urban warfare from my time fighting in Iraq and leading the campaign to defeat ISIS … the lesson is not that you can win in urban warfare by protecting civilians.
The lesson is that you can only win in urban warfare by protecting civilians," he articulated. This view aligns with the broader US policy that, while affirming unwavering support for Israel, also emphasizes the ethical and strategic importance of civilian protection.
"I have repeatedly made clear to Israel’s leaders that protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is both a moral responsibility and a strategic imperative," Austin added, highlighting the dual nature of this issue.
The Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
The situation in Gaza remains dire following the collapse of a fragile truce.
Israeli strikes have led to significant casualties and a humanitarian crisis. According to Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra, a spokesperson for the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza, the toll is heavy: at least 15,207 people killed and 40,652 others injured since the resumption of hostilities.
Notably, 70% of those killed are women and children, underscoring the conflict's devastating impact on non-combatants. The humanitarian situation is further exacerbated by Israel’s blockade on Gaza, leading to severe shortages of food, fuel, and medical supplies.
This blockade has crippled the medical system, leaving approximately 2.2 million Gazans at risk of dehydration and starvation. Furthermore, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) reports that around 1.8 million people have been displaced in Gaza since October 7.
Human rights organizations have raised serious concerns, labeling Israel’s attacks on civilians and their forcible evacuation as potential war crimes. These developments have spurred international debate and concern, with voices like US Vice President Kamala Harris echoing the need for greater civilian protection.
"As Israel pursues its military objectives in Gaza, we believe Israel must do more to protect innocent civilians,” Harris stated. This growing international pressure reflects the complex and challenging nature of the conflict in Gaza, where military objectives and humanitarian concerns are deeply intertwined.