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Biden asks Israel to be more cautious in south Gaza assault

Biden, US officials ask Israel to be more cautious in south Gaza offensive
2 min read
28 November, 2023
The US is allegedly pressuring Israel to be 'more cautious' in what appears to be its inevitable assault on south Gaza.
Some say the new US rhetoric represents a significant shift after Biden previously said there were no 'red lines' in Israel's deadly assault on the Gaza strip [Getty]

The U.S. is asking Israel to take greater care to protect civilians and limit damage to infrastructure in any offensive in southern Gaza, senior U.S. officials said, in what amounts to a more forthright approach to protecting Palestinians.

The move represents a distinct rhetorical shift in the Biden administration policy after strong domestic and international criticism. It comes a month after the White House said it had set no "red lines" for Israel's war on the Palestinian enclave. 

The Israeli offensive in northern Gaza has proven devastating, with over 15,000 Palestinians killed, disease rampant and vast numbers of survivors left homeless and forced to flee south by a relentless bombing campaign and a lack of essentials such as food, power and water.

As Israel begins to look toward south Gaza to continue battling Hamas militants after a pause in fighting to release hostages, U.S. officials said they have been talking to the Israelis about taking greater care in the south, where there were now about 2 million people.

The message has been delivered from President Joe Biden on down, the officials told reporters on a conference call.

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"We have reinforced this in very clear language with the government of Israel - very important that the conduct of the Israeli campaign when it moves to the south must be done in a way that is to a maximum extent not designed to produce significant further displacement of persons," one official said.

"You cannot have the sort of scale of displacement that took place in the north, replicated in the south. It will be beyond disruptive, it will be beyond the capacity of any humanitarian support network," the official said, adding "It can't happen."

The U.S. official said the campaign needed to avoid attacks on power and water infrastructure and humanitarian sites and hospitals in south and central Gaza.

He said the Israelis had been receptive amid concerns that southern Gaza could be a more complicated battlefield.

Many analysts have warned that any Israeli attack on south Gaza will make the already catastrophic humanitarian crisis even worse, which is why human rights groups and regional powers have urged the Biden administration to back a permanent ceasefire, something it continues to oppose.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday described an extended truce between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas as "a glimpse of hope and humanity," but warned it was not enough time to meet the aid needs of the Gaza Strip.