Washington is reportedly “pushing hard” after the Jabalia bombing
Washington has grown increasingly uncomfortable with the civilian death toll in Gaza, requesting an explanation from Israel for one of the airstrikes on the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp, Politico reported on Friday.
The request was in the context of “asking Israel to do more to avoid civilian casualties,” a US official, granted anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations, told the outlet. Washington has also asked for details on “the thinking and process” behind the strike and urged Israel to conduct “precision targeting” to avoid harming civilians.
Visiting Israel on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that he has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pursue a “pause” in the fighting and gave him advice about reducing civilian casualties.
Netanyahu responded that Israel will not agree to any ceasefires and intends to proceed “with full force” until Hamas has released all hostages taken in the October 7 attack.
The US urged Israel to conduct a “more surgical” operation instead of a full-scale invasion of Gaza, citing the potential for both civilian and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) casualties, the anonymous official told Politico, but Netanyahu only “partially” heeded the advice.
“The path they chose was kind of splitting the difference,” the official said.
Netanyahu declared war on Hamas after the Palestinian militant group’s incursion claimed 1,400 Israeli lives, mostly civilians. IDF jets and artillery have repeatedly struck Gaza, resulting in over 9,000 deaths, according to the most recent figures provided by health officials in the Hamas-controlled enclave. IDF ground troops entered Gaza last Friday and reportedly cut it in half.
Tuesday’s strike on Jabalia killed 50 and injured 150 people. Another strike, on Wednesday, killed at least 80 more, according to local doctors. Israel has acknowledged both strikes, saying it was targeting senior Hamas commanders who were “intentionally endangering Gazan civilians” by using them as human shields.
While the unnamed US official who spoke to Politico insisted that American “support for Israel’s right to defend itself remains solid,” some members of Congress from President Joe Biden’s party appear to be having reservations.
On Friday, 13 Senate Democrats issued a joint statement calling for “a short-term cessation of hostilities” to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, free the hostages, and negotiate a peace. Meanwhile, Democrats in the House are discussing possible measures to penalize Israel if it refuses to change course, including “actual enforcement of existing human rights vetting” tied to US weapons deliveries, one member of Congress told Politico on condition of anonymity.