Israel should take responsibility for protecting innocent civilians in Gaza even though Hamas is using them as human shields, Biden administration national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday, as Israeli forces continue to bombard the Gaza Strip following the deadly terrorist attack more than three weeks ago.
Sullivan appeared on CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ saying the Israeli government should take every possible action to distinguish terrorists from civilians during its ongoing operations.
‘Hamas is making life extremely difficult for Israel by taking civilians as human shields and putting their rocket infrastructure and terrorist infrastructure among civilians,’ Sullivan said. ‘That creates an added burden for Israel, but it does not lessen Israel’s responsibility under international humanitarian law to distinguish between terrorist and civilians and protect lives of innocent people.’
Sullivan added: ‘And that is the overwhelming majority of the people in Gaza.’
While Sullivan said President Biden will speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Sunday about protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza, he added that the U.S. has already been holding conversations behind closed doors about protecting civilians.
‘We have had conversations privately, as well as our public pronouncements, private conversations with Israel about the need to protect innocent civilians and be targeted in their military operations so that it’s focused on the terrorists and not on innocent people whose lives deserve to be protected,’ he said.
Netanyahu on Saturday announced that his forces have entered the ‘second stage’ of its war with the terrorist group Hamas, greatly expanding its ground operations in Gaza.
Since Hamas terrorists first infiltrated Israel on Oct. 7, as many as 8,700 people have been killed in the war on both sides, including at least 1,400 Israeli civilians and soldiers and 33 Americans. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claims more than 7,300 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and 110 in the West Bank, although the Biden administration has looked at numbers coming from Hamas with a degree of skepticism.
At least 10 Americans are feared to be among the 229 people held captive by Hamas.