Blinken says ‘how Israel does this matters’ as Gaza siege nears

‘Our humanity, the value we place on human life and human dignity ... is what makes us who we are,’ Blinken says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 12 October 2023 15:48 BST
Related video: Netanyahu says any country to meet with Hamas should be sanctioned

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cautioned Israel ahead of its planned siege of Gaza as he spoke alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Blinken spoke of the strong US support for Israel and reiterated that the country has the right to defend itself, but he added that “how Israel does this matters”.

The secretary of state met with Mr Netanyahu at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv. The top US diplomat mentioned his Jewish ancestry and horror at the Hamas attacks.

“I understand on a personal level, the harrowing echoes that Hamas’ massacres carry for Israeli Jews, indeed, for Jews everywhere,” he said.

“There is no excuse. There is no justification for these atrocities,” he added. “This must be a moment for moral clarity.”

The “brutality and inhumanity” of Hamas was similar to “the worst of ISIS,” Mr Blinken said.

Mr Blinken said the US would supply ammunition to restock Israel’s air defences, adding that there would be bipartisan support for further military assistance. He then cautioned that how Israel goes about its counteroffensive matters.

“Our humanity, the value we place on human life and human dignity ... is what makes us who we are,” he said.

“We democracies distinguish ourselves from terrorists by striving for a different standard, even when it’s difficult, and holding ourselves to account when we fall short,” Mr Blinken said. “That’s why it’s so important to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians. And that’s why we mourn the loss of every innocent life — civilians of every faith, every nationality who have been killed.”

“No country can or would tolerate the slaughter of its citizens or simply return to the conditions that allowed it to take place. Israel has the right, indeed the obligation, to defend itself and to ensure that this never happens again,” he added before going on to note that “as the Prime Minister and I discussed, how Israel does this matters”.

This comes after President Joe Biden argued on Wednesday that Israel must follow the rules of war in its attack on Gaza.

The number of dead in Israel following the attacks on Saturday has now surpassed 1,300. A similar number of people have been killed in Gaza after retaliatory air strikes.

At the press conference with Mr Blinken, Mr Netanyahu said: “Just as ISIS was crushed so will Hamas be crushed.”

“They should be spit out from the community of nations,” he said, adding that no one should meet with them. “Those that do should be sanctioned.”

“I come here also as a Jew ... The message that I bring to Israel is this,” Mr Blinked said on Thursday. “You may be strong enough on your own to defend yourself, but as long as America exists, you will never ever have to. We will always be there by your side.”

He added that the US is “supplying ammunition, interceptors to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome, alongside other defence material”, noting that “shipments of US military support has already arrived in Israel, and more is on the way”.

“As Israel’s defence needs evolve, we will work with Congress to make sure that they’re met. And I can tell you, there is overwhelming, overwhelming bipartisan support in our Congress for Israel’s security,” the secretary said.

“We continue working closely with Israel to secure the release of the men, women, children, elderly people, taken hostage by Hamas,” Mr Blinken added. “We’re pursuing intensive diplomacy throughout the region to prevent the conflict from spreading, and I’ll be doing that over the course of my trip in the coming days.”

At least 150 people were taken hostage and brought into Gaza by Hamas.

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