A US official said Sunday that Israel has the “right” to expand its military operations in southern Gaza but said the Biden administration is looking for a delay in the plan to account for the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have fled fighting from the north.
“In the event that we believe that Israel is likely to embark on combat operations, including in the south, we believe both that they have the right to do that, but that there is a real concern, because hundreds of thousands of residents of Gaza have fled now from the north to the south at Israel’s request,” US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer told CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”
“We think that their operations should not go forward until those people – those additional civilians – have been accounted for in their military planning. And so, we will be conveying that directly to them and have been conveying that directly to them,” Finer added.
Israel has been bombing southern Gaza throughout the war, even after telling Palestinians in the north to flee to the south. Now, Israeli officials are vowing to further expand the war in the south, and ground operations are expected. Reuters reported on Saturday that more civilian casualties are expected in a southern offensive but that Israel is not deterred by that fact.
While Finer and other US officials are saying publicly that they want Israel to limit civilian casualties, the US is not using any leverage it has over Israel and continues to provide military aid unconditionally. Gaza’s Health Ministry said Sunday that the death toll in Israel’s assault has exceeded 13,000 Palestinians, including over 5,500 children.
Israel dropped leaflets on the southern city of Khan Younis, telling civilians to evacuate to unspecified shelters. After the leaflets were dropped, Israeli strikes hit the city, killing 26 Palestinians, mostly children, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.