Israel should not embark on combat operations against Hamas in the south of Gaza until military planners have taken into account the safety of fleeing Palestinian civilians, a White House official said on Sunday, reports Reuters.
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“In the event that Israel is likely to embark on combat operations, including in the south, we believe … that they have the right to do that,” White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told CBS‘ Face the Nation program.
“We think that their operations should not go forward until those people, those additional civilians, have been accounted for in their military planning,” Finer said. “We will be conveying that directly to them and have been conveying that directly to them.”
Hamas took about 240 hostages during its deadly cross-border rampage into Israeli communities on October 7, which prompted Israel to lay siege to Gaza and invade the Palestinian territory to eradicate its ruling Islamist group.
Israel’s blitz has reduced swaths of the north to rubble, while some two-thirds of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have been displaced to the south.
Gaza’s Health Ministry has raised its death toll from Israeli bombardment to 12,300, including 5,000 children.
Finer urged Israel to draw lessons from its military operations in the north of Gaza and provide enhanced protections for civilians by narrowing the area of active combat and specifying where civilians can seek refuge.
On Saturday, Israel warned civilians in parts of southern Gaza to relocate as it girds for an offensive from the north.
The south has been repeatedly bombarded by Israel, rendering Israeli promises of safety absurd, Palestinians say.