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“Protecting Palestinian civilians … a strategic imperative”

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday that “protecting Palestinian civilians from harm is both a moral necessity and a strategic imperative,” describing the situation in Gaza as a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

At the beginning of his meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, at the headquarters of the US Department of Defense (the Pentagon), Austin added, “In Gaza today, the number of civilian casualties is far too high, and the amount of humanitarian aid is far too low.” This was published on the US Department of Defense’s official website.

The meeting comes as relations between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to their lowest level during the war.

An American official said, “Austin’s discussions with his Israeli counterpart in the Pentagon mainly focus on the possible military operation in Rafah.”

The official pointed out that “the firm priority in Rafah remains to eliminate the threat posed by Hamas, but ensuring the protection of civilians.”

The official confirmed that “Austin will push to persuade Israel to adopt alternatives to the ground operation in Rafah, which the United States sees as a mistake in the absence of a reliable plan that protects civilians.”

The war broke out in the Gaza Strip following the unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7, which killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians, including women and children, according to the Israeli authorities.

In response to the attack, Israel pledged to “eliminate the movement” via genocide of all Palestinians including women and children, and has since carried out a bombing campaign followed by ground operations since October 27, killing 32,414 Palestinians, the majority of whom are women and children, and wounding 74,787, according to what the Hamas Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday.

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