White House insists Israel is not committing genocide in Gaza

Top official says Palestinian civilians caught in the Israel-Gaza war are 'in hell'

Student protesters project an image of US President Joe Biden with the words 'Genocide Joe' on an American flag at George Washington University. AFP
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The White House on Monday said Israel can and must do more to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza, but it insisted that Israel's military action does not amount to genocide.

“We do not believe what is happening in Gaza is a genocide,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said. “We have been firmly on record rejecting that proposition.”

But he said Palestinian civilians caught in the war, which has been going for more than seven months, are “in hell”.

“The death and trauma they've endured are unimaginable,” Mr Sullivan told reporters.

“Their pain and suffering are immense. No civilian should have to go through.”

US President Joe Biden, who is running for re-election in November, has been under increasing pressure over his continued support for Israel, even as the Palestinian death toll continues to climb.

Student protesters on university campuses, Arab Americans and some progressive members of Mr Biden's own Democratic Party have accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza.

South Africa brought a case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague in January, accusing Israel of a genocidal campaign against Palestinians in Gaza.

In recent weeks, dozens of protest camps have sprung up on university campuses across the US, with student chants and signs calling the Mr Biden “Genocide Joe”.

Israel launched a punishing military campaign on Gaza on October 7, after Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel killing 1,200.

About 35,100 have been killed in Gaza in Israeli bombardments, according to local officials.

Much of the coastal enclave has been reduced to rubble and a humanitarian crisis is worsening.

Civilians ordered to flee eastern Rafah as Israel begins invasion – in pictures

Mr Biden, a long-time supporter of Israel, has provided military and diplomatic support.

For months, he has resisted calls to place conditions on aid to Israel.

But last week, in a marked shift in tone, Mr Biden said the US would delay the shipment of large bombs to Israel if it invades the densely populated southern Gazan city of Rafah.

The massive bombs that Israel has been dropping in Gaza came from the US, with Mr Biden acknowledging that they had been used to kill civilians.

The decision drew immediate backlash from his Republican critics, who accused him of abandoning the strongest US ally in the Middle East. Some have even called for Mr Biden to be impeached.

The US is by far the biggest supplier of weapons to Israel, sending more than $3.3 billion in military funding annually, with more on the way.

“We are continuing to send military assistance and we will ensure that Israel receives the full amount provided in the supplemental,” Mr Sullivan said.

“We have paused the shipment of 2,000-pound bombs, because we do not believe they should be dropped in densely populated cities.”

The Biden administration has for weeks been warning Israel against launching a major offensive on Rafah, where 1.4 million Palestinians have sought refuge after fleeing fighting elsewhere. Many have been living in tents.

Mr Sullivan said a meeting with an Israeli delegation over Rafah will “happen in a matter of days, not weeks”, although no date has been scheduled.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's right-wing Prime Minister, says he is intent on launching an operation in Rafah, with or without US support.

On Monday, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, the UNRWA, said about 360,000 people have been forcibly displaced from Rafah after Israel ordered them to evacuate.

UN expert says Israel has committed genocide in Gaza – video

UN expert says Israel has committed genocide in Gaza

UN expert says Israel has committed genocide in Gaza
Updated: May 13, 2024, 9:58 PM