Washington issued a sharply worded statement on Wednesday evening expressing “grave” concern about reported strikes on a U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in southern Gaza. It also appeared to blame Israel, even though the Jewish state has said it does not appear responsible and is investigating whether Hamas carried out the attacks.
There were reports of fires in the UNRWA building, where “more than 30,000 displaced Palestinians had reportedly been sheltering,” said Adrienne Watson, a National Security Council spokeswoman.
“While we don’t yet have all the details on what happened and will continue to seek further information regarding today’s incidents, the loss of every innocent life is a tragedy,” she stated. “This conflict has already resulted in the devastating deaths and injuries of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians, and we mourn every single civilian life that has been lost. It’s heartbreaking to see children killed, injured and orphaned.”
The United States is “unwavering in our support for Israel’s right to defend itself, consistent with international humanitarian law, against Hamas terrorists who hide among the civilian population and want to annihilate the State of Israel,” Watson added. “But Israel retains a responsibility to protect civilians, including humanitarian personnel and sites.”
She said that U.S. President Joe Biden “has been clear from the earliest days of this crisis [that] the United States will also continue working to increase life-saving humanitarian assistance into Gaza and to bring home all of the hostages held there.”
“Incredibly concerning,” said Vedant Patel, the U.S. State Department’s principal deputy spokesman, of the attack. “We deplore today’s attack on the U.N.’s Khan Yunis training center.”
Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of UNRWA, wrote that the “compound is a clearly marked U.N. facility, and its coordinates were shared with Israeli Authorities as we do for all our facilities. Once again, a blatant disregard of basic rules of war.”
Jerusalem said it is investigating whether Hamas is responsible for the strikes and that it ruled out its air or artillery forces having carried out the attack.