Rabu 06 Dec 2023 21:47 WIB

US Defense Secretary Urges Israel to Protect Gaza Civilians

Israel must avoid civilian casualties.

United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Foto: AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana
United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

REPUBLICA.CO.ID, WASHINGTON -- U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged Israel to protect civilians in Gaza and warned that failure to do so could result in a strategic defeat.

“In a fight like this, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you make them fall into the hands of the enemy, you turn tactical victory into strategic defeat,” Austin said at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California last week.

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“So I repeatedly reiterated to Israeli leaders that protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is a moral responsibility and a priority,” Austin added.

Austin claimed to have personally urged Israeli leaders to avoid civilian casualties, irresponsible rhetoric, prevent violence perpetrated by settlers in the occupied West Bank, and expand access for humanitarian aid.

On the other hand, he stressed that any country must retaliate against the attack -- referencing Hamas's attack on Israel on October 7 -- and stressed that every country has an obligation to protect civilians during armed conflict.

Austin also said the two-state solution was still the only way out of this conflict.

“Without hope, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will remain an engine of instability and insecurity and human suffering,” he said.

Austin reiterated U.S. support for Israel by saying Washington would “remain Israel's closest friend in the world.”

“Our support for Israel's security is non-negotiable. And it will never be negotiable,” he added.

The Israeli army again bombarded the Gaza Strip on Friday last week after declaring a week-long humanitarian pause with Hamas ended. More than 15,500 Palestinians, mostly children and women, have died in Israeli attacks since October 7, 2023. The death toll on the Israeli side reached 1,200 people.

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