Middle East

Blinken calls out other countries for not demanding Hamas surrender and ‘stop hiding behind civilians’

By Jack Forrest, CNN

CNN  —  Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday called out other countries for not demanding Hamas surrender.

“What is striking to me is that even as, again, we hear many countries urging the end to this conflict, which we would all like to see, I hear virtually no one saying – demanding of Hamas that it stop hiding behind civilians, that it lay down its arms, that it surrender. This is over tomorrow if Hamas does that. This would have been over a month ago, six weeks ago, if Hamas had done that,” Blinken said during a press briefing at the State Department Wednesday.

“How can it be that there are no demands made of the aggressor and only demands made of the victim,” Blinken went on to say.

The strong comments from Blinken come as the United Nations Security Council continues to negotiate a resolution calling for a suspension in fighting and encouraging more humanitarian aid into the beleaguered Gaza Strip, and as the United States’ support for the resolution remains unresolved.

A vote on the resolution was pushed for a third time this week as countries work to bring the US – one of the five permanent members on the council with the power to sink a deal with a veto – on board. The delay underscored the Biden administration’s hesitancy to sign onto a resolution that could be interpreted as a rebuke of Israel’s continuing military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Blinken noted in the briefing that “understandably, everyone would like to see this conflict end as quickly as possible,” but, he observed, “if it ends with Hamas remaining in place and having the capacity and the stated intent to repeat October 7th again and again and again, that’s not in the interests of Israel, it’s not in the interests of the region, it’s not in the interests of the world.”

The US has vetoed previous measures at the UNSC and voted against a call for a ceasefire in the larger UN General Assembly earlier this month.

The US, Israel’s strongest ally, has repeatedly condemned the Hamas attack that killed more than 1,200 people October 7. But the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza from Israel’s response has prompted top US officials, including President Joe Biden, to urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take more meaningful steps to protect innocent lives while waging his war against Hamas.

Nearly 20,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry.

Asked about the growing death toll in Gaza, Blinken said, “It’s clear that the conflict will move and needs to move to a lower-intensity phase, and we expect to see and want to see a shift to more targeted operations with a smaller number of forces that’s really focused in on dealing with the leadership of Hamas, the tunnel network, and a few other critical things. And as that happens, I think you’ll see, as well, the harm done to civilians also decrease significantly.”

The secretary acknowledged “the last couple of months have been gut-wrenching when you see the suffering of men, women, and especially children in Gaza,” and the administration, he said, has focused on “doing everything possible to minimize the harm to those who are caught in a crossfire of Hamas’ making.”

“And again, I come back to this basic proposition. There seems to be silence on what Hamas could do, should do, must do if we want to end the suffering of innocent men, women, and children. It would be, I think, good if the world could unite around that proposition as well,” he said.

CNN’s Becky Anderson, Michael Williams, Kevin Liptak and Jennifer Deaton contributed to this report.

Related Articles

Back to top button