Most Americans want US to help protect civilians in Gaza Strip

Poll suggests citizens are divided over Washington's role in ensuring peace in Middle East

Palestinians gather at the site of a collapsed and damaged buildings after an Israeli air strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. AFP
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A bipartisan majority of Americans want the US to help Gaza civilians get out of harm's way as Israel prepares for its ground offensive.

A poll was conducted by Reuters and Ipsos after Israel ordered the evacuation of 1.1 million civilians in the Gaza strip, home to 2.4 million. The order, which came with little notice, has sparked fears over a potential humanitarian crisis.

Seventy-eight per cent of respondents agreed that “American diplomats should actively be working on a plan to allow civilians fleeing fighting in Gaza to move to a safe country”. A large majority of Democrats (94 per cent) and Republicans (71 per cent) both agreed with the statement.

Twenty-two per cent of those who responded to the survey disagreed.

The US has been working with regional partners to establish a humanitarian corridor through the Rafah border crossing that would create a safe passage for Gazans to evacuate and for relief supplies to flow into the enclave from neighbouring Egypt.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that no deal has been reached yet to establish a corridor.

Washington has also been working to evacuate US citizens from Gaza before Israel's planned offensive.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis welcomed nearly 300 American evacuees who arrived in Tampa Bay and Orlando on Sunday.

US support for Israel is also higher, the poll found, with 41 per cent of respondents saying Washington should support it in its war. Meanwhile, 2 per cent said “the US should support the Palestinians”, Reuters reported.

However, younger US citizens were found to be less supportive of Israel than older Americans.

Americans divided over responsibility in Middle East

US citizens are also split on what responsibility America has in ensuring stability in the Middle East, a separate ABC News/Ipsos poll found.

Forty-six per cent of respondents said the US had a responsibility to ensure stability in the region, compared to 50 per cent who said it does not. Fifty-nine per cent of Democrats consider it a responsibility of Washington, compared to 48 per cent of Republicans and 39 per cent of independent voters.

Washington has been working to stop the conflict from spreading throughout the Middle East. Secretary of State Antony Blinken concluded a tour of the region on Monday after holding meetings in the UAE, Israel, Gaza, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.

Meanwhile, Iran has warned that the conflict could escalate if Israel does not stop its bombardment of Gaza. Israel has launched air and artillery strikes against the Gaza Strip over the past week after Hamas militants killed more than 1,400 Israelis in a surprise assault on October 7.

Americans are also pessimistic about US leaders' action on Israel, with 37 per cent of respondents not trusting either party would do a better job of handling the war.

Forty-one per cent approve how President Joe Biden is handling the Israel-Gaza war, which is a similar proportion to those who approve of his handling of the war in Ukraine.

Updated: October 17, 2023, 10:06 AM