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Harris Says Too Many Palestinians Have Died as Fighting Resumes

2023-12-03 02:19
Vice President Kamala Harris said too many Palestinian civilians had died and called images of the suffering in
Harris Says Too Many Palestinians Have Died as Fighting Resumes

Vice President Kamala Harris said too many Palestinian civilians had died and called images of the suffering in Gaza “devastating” on Saturday as fighting between Israel and Hamas intensified following the end of a weeklong cease-fire agreement.

Harris, following meetings with Arab leaders in Dubai, said that while the US continued to endorse Israel’s right to self-defense — and blamed Hamas for the end of the pause in fighting — she was also concerned by the growing humanitarian crisis.

“President Biden and I have also been clear with the Israeli government in public and in private many times: as Israel defends itself, it matters how,” Harris said. “The United States is unequivocal international humanitarian law must be respected. Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering, and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating.”

The vice president, who was in Dubai for a United Nations climate conference, said the US was seeking “significant resources” from the international community to help rebuild a postwar Gaza governed by a strengthened Palestinian Authority. Palestinians would need assistance rebuilding homes and hospitals, while Palestine’s security forces should be “strengthened to eventually assume security responsibilities in Gaza.”

“The Palestinian Authority must be revitalized, driven by the will of the Palestinian people, which will allow them to benefit from the rule of law, and a transparent, responsive government,” Harris said, reiterating the US call for a two-state solution.

Harris spent much of her afternoon discussing the conflict after a weeklong cease-fire agreement expired between Israel and Hamas — which administers Gaza and is classified as a terror group by the US and European Union — after talks broke down over additional prisoner and hostage exchanges.

Since then, Israel has bombarded southern Gaza and encouraged Palestinians in border towns to leave their homes, deepening humanitarian concerns.

In talks with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Harris said the US remained committed to pursuing the release of the roughly 137 hostages believed to remain in Gaza, including a group of US citizens. She reiterated that the US wouldn’t support the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza — an acute concern for the leader of neighboring Egypt — and discussed planning efforts underway after the conflict concludes.

“No forcible displacement,” Harris said. “No reoccupation or siege or blockade. No reduction in territory, and no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism.”

Harris also spoke with Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who helped facilitate negotiations between Israel and Hamas. They discussed efforts to resume the temporary cease-fires - even as the latest round of negotiations appeared to break down - as well as postwar planning efforts. The vice president’s meeting also included talks with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE normalized relations with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords in 2020, and is among the Arab states with the closest ties to Israeli leadership.

Harris said that the US had not yet evaluated Israel’s call for a postwar buffer zone, but that the US priorities were ending Hamas control of Gaza, Israeli security, and a “hopeful political horizon, economic opportunity, and freedom” for Palestinians.

“There is, I believe, a mutual desire to figure out how we are going to approach and think about the day after in a way that brings stability and peace to this region and reinforces, as I said earlier, Israel’s security,” Harris said.