Salem Radio Network News Sunday, March 3, 2024

World

U.S. VP Harris urges Israel to protect Gaza civilians, sketches post-war vision

By Nandita Bose and Steve Holland

DUBAI (Reuters) -U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said on Saturday too many Palestinians are being killed in Gaza and urged Israel to do more to protect them as she sketched out a U.S. vision for post-conflict Gaza.

At a news conference on the sidelines of the COP28 summit, Harris said Israel has a legitimate right to conduct military operations against Hamas militants, who launched attacks from Gaza on Oct. 7 in which more than 1,200 people in southern Israel were killed.

“As Israel defends itself, it matters how. The United States is unequivocal: International humanitarian law must be respected. Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed,” Harris said.

The United States has been increasingly vocal that Israel must narrow the combat zone during any offensive in southern Gaza and ensure safe areas for Palestinians.

“As Israel pursues its military objectives in Gaza, we believe Israel must do more to protect innocent civilians,” she said.

More than 15,000 people have been killed so far in Gaza, according to Palestinian authorities.

Harris consulted with regional leaders while attending the climate summit in Dubai, after being asked by U.S. President Joe Biden to take his seat at the table as he focuses on the Israel-Hamas war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was only looking to hurt Hamas.

“We determine safe areas in coordination with international agencies and with our American friends, to where the population knows it can evacuate. We did it in the north and we will do it elsewhere and this is important because we have no desire to harm the population,” he told reporters in Tel Aviv.

In another message directed at Israel, Harris said the United States will not permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, the besieging of Gaza or the redrawing of Gaza’s borders.

“The international community must dedicate significant resources to support short- and long-term recovery in Gaza, for example, rebuilding hospitals and housing, restoring electricity and clean water and ensuring that bakeries can reopen and be restocked,” she said.

SECURITY RESPONSIBILITIES

Eventually, the Palestinian Authority security forces must be strengthened to assume security responsibilities in Gaza, but until then, she said, “There must be security arrangements that are acceptable to Israel, the people of Gaza, the Palestinian Authority, and the international partners.”

Looking further down the road, she said, the Palestinian Authority should be bolstered to the point that it can govern both the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas can no longer run Gaza, she said.

“We want to see a unified Gaza and West Bank under the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Palestinian voices and aspirations must be at the center of this work,” she said.

Netanyahu has said he is unwilling to allow the PA in its present form to run Gaza after the war ends.

“The Palestinian Authority doesn’t fight terrorism – it funds terrorism, it doesn’t teach peace, it preaches the disappearance of Israel. This is not the body that should go in there,” Netanyahu said on Saturday.

Once the war ends, efforts to rebuild should be pursued with a view toward the goal of a two-state solution in which Israel and the Palestinians live in peace, Harris said, referring to a long-sought U.S. objective that has not borne fruit.

The Western-backed PA governs parts of the occupied West Bank. Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party and has ruled the enclave ever since.

Harris’ role in the administration is coming under increased scrutiny as Biden, 81, runs for a second four-year term. She has been tasked with helping to resolve a series of major challenges, from migration to abortion and voting rights at home.

How post-conflict Gaza should realistically be managed is an issue that has confounded regional leaders and Middle East experts.

U.S. officials have discussed bolstering the Palestinian Authority so it can widen its reach to include Gaza, but no firm plan has been agreed upon.

Some U.S. officials have privately expressed doubts about the PA’s ability to govern Gaza post-war. Critics have accused the authority of corruption and mismanagement, and opinion polls have shown its credibility is low with the Palestinian people.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose, Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Holmes)

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