The White House says it won’t support Israel’s plan to expand its operations into the south of the Gaza Strip unless it shows it will protect the Palestinian civilians there.
In a Tuesday press call, U.S. National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby said the United States won’t support Israel “moving forward with operations in the south absent a clearly articulated plan for how they’re going to protect the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people” there.
“There’s an obligation for them to factor that into their planning,” Kirby said.
The NSC spokesman noted that the population in the south of the terror-run enclave has swelled as Israel ordered the northern population to flee southwards. It’s “even more incumbent” on Israel to “protect those civilians who moved at their urging,” said Kirby.
Israel ordered approximately 1 million Palestinians living in Gaza City to move south on Oct. 13. “This evacuation is for your own safety,” the Israeli military said in a warning sent to civilians as it ramped up its efforts to eradicate Hamas terrorists in the northern part of the Strip.
“We were glad to see that they set up safe corridors in the north for people to get out of the fighting there in north Gaza,” said Kirby.
The evacuation was slowed by Hamas targeting civilians to keep them in harm’s way, calculating that Israel would be held responsible for civilian deaths.
On Nov. 13, a month after calling for the civilian evacuation, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Hamas has lost control of the Gaza Strip.
It is estimated that the IDF’s next operational step will be to head south in Gaza, following a temporary ceasefire to free some of the 240 hostages captured by Hamas on Oct. 7 during its invasion of southern Israel.