Biden’s national security adviser responds to Israeli hospital attacks in Gaza

Joe Biden’s top national security adviser addressed the growing Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip in an interview on Sunday and defended the Israeli government’s claims asserting that Hamas commanders were hiding in the vicinity of Gaza’s hospitals and medical centres.

The bloody conflict has shocked millions around the world, both in terms of the initial Hamas terrorist attack and Israel’s military response. The death toll in Gaza continues to climb as Israel’s military vows to destroy the militant group, which is effectively in control of the territory.

Among the more controversial aspects of the siege is the persistent allegation that Israel’s forces have either deliberately or inadvertantly hit hospitals with airstrikes and other munitions. Doing so would directly violate international law; however, there are exceptions to those established rules, with the main one being if medical buildings are used partially or otherwise for an “act harmful to the enemy”. This distinction makes the Israeli government’s assertion that Hamas’s command centres often lie within or beneath hospitals all the more relevant.

In recent days, reports of Israeli military strikes hitting Gaza’s hospitals have jumped significantly. A statement posted Saturday from the internationally-renowned medical group Doctors Without Borders claimed that Israeli forces had been seen firing upon civilians attempting to flee al-Shifa Hospital, one of Gaza’s main medical centres, and on Sunday the group denounced the Israeli military again, while calling for attacks against al-Shifa to cease.

President Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan appeared this morning on ABC’s This Week and gave perhaps the White House’s most extensive reaction yet to the Israeli government’s defence of its actions.

“There is plenty of open source information to indicate that Hamas uses lots of different civilian institutions, including hospitals, to store weapons, for command and control, to house its fighters,” he told ABC’s Jonathan Karl.

But he went on to say that even were that to be the case, the US government did not support a limitless Israeli attack on such spaces.

“That being said, Jon, we do not want to see a firefight in a hospital where innocent people, helpless people, people seeking medical care, are caught in the crossfire,” he said.

Explaining that the White House was having an “active conversation” with their counterparts in Israel on the matter, Mr Sullivan said that the US viewed the Israeli government as having a responsibility to protect civilians in conflict zones, including ones supposedly being used as “human shields”.

Some Israeli officials, meanwhile, have considerably fed tensions and outrage with statements calling for the Israeli military to complete what they call a “second Nakba”, the forced ouster of their people from occupied Palestinian territories. A leaked Israeli military document obtained by news outlets fed fears that those calls may be acted upon.

Mr Sullivan also addressed that issue on Sunday, declaring that the US would not support the “forcible displacement of the Palestinian people” or the “reoccupation of Gaza”, though he added that the Biden administration at the same time would not support any ability by Hamas to wage future attacks.