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USAID head slams Israel, mentions Hamas once in call with donor states

"Our hearts, of course, go out with those mourning their loved ones this week after Israel's strike in Rafah on Sunday killed at least 45 people," Samantha Power said.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power visited the Learning Center at the Youth Village at Kufr Neemeh that has been severely damaged by recent "extremist settler violence" and forced to shut down. Credit: USAID.
USAID Administrator Samantha Power visited the Learning Center at the Youth Village at Kufr Neemeh that has been severely damaged by recent "extremist settler violence" and forced to shut down. Credit: USAID.

Samantha Power, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, slammed Israel repeatedly in a virtual call with donor governments on Wednesday, during which she mentioned Hamas only once, per a USAID transcript.

“I just want to start by saying that our hearts, of course, go out with those mourning their loved ones this week after Israel’s strike in Rafah on Sunday killed at least 45 people, many of whom were in tent camps seeking refuge from the violence,” Power said. “Further strikes, it looks like, in Rafah have since killed at least 21 more.”

She added that she, U.S. President Joe Biden and other administration officials “have made clear to Israel that a major ground military operation in Rafah would put civilians at immense risk and imperil the humanitarian response.”

“Despite currently more limited military operations around Rafah and the Egypt-Gaza border, the catastrophic consequences that we have long warned about are becoming a reality,” Power said.

Due to “catastrophic conditions” in Rafah, Washington is in “daily conversation still with the government of Israel and our humanitarian partners about the urgency of protecting both those remaining in Rafah and those who are again being displaced,” she said.

“We need to stress to Israel and Egypt the vital importance of opening all crossings, keeping them functioning at maximum capacity, prioritizing the passage of humanitarian aid and allowing the U.N. to collect and distribute goods from the Gaza side of crossings,” the U.S. official added.

“We also need to increase assistance going through the port of Ashdod and on to these land crossings—fully utilizing Israel’s commitment to what it calls an ‘open Ashdod’—this, of course, is not yet happening,” she said.

The United States continues “to engage with Israeli officials on the need for more effective deconfliction mechanisms that enable humanitarians to safely operate,” Power said. “That means protecting civilian infrastructure like hospitals and schools.”

At one point in her remarks, after saying that Israel Defense Forces operations “have closed the Rafah crossing since early May,” Power noted “persistent Hamas rocket attacks near Kerem Shalom” and said that “severe shortages” were “exacerbated by Egypt’s unwillingness to send aid through Kerem Shalom.”

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