I expect there will be no fights in hospitals, hospitals must be protected, US President Joe Biden said on Monday. His adviser Jake Sullivan said he heard from the Israelis that they did not intend to fight in the hospital.
“You know I have not been shy when it comes to expressing my views on what is happening. I hope and expect that there will be less activity inside hospitals (…) Hospitals must be protected,” Biden said, commenting on the fighting around al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.
When asked during a briefing on the same topic, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan admitted that the situation is complicated because Hamas uses hospitals “in the most cynical way” as centers of military operations, but noted that this does not remove Israel’s responsibility to follow the rules conducting conflicts.
“How everything will turn out in a specific operation, in this tunnel or in this bunker, these decisions belong to the military that is fighting. The United States cannot dictate this. But we will continue to stand by the principle that the laws of war must be respected, even if Israel takes on Hamas,” he said.
He added that Israeli officials told the Americans that they did not want to engage in fighting in hospitals and offered to provide fuel to medical facilities.
Biden and Sullivan also said that talks with Israel also include establishing a longer pause in fighting to allow for the release of the hostages. Hostage negotiations are being conducted through Qatar, and Biden said he had “some hope” the hostages could be released.
The president’s adviser also referred to the continuing attacks on American forces in the Middle East by groups supported by Iran. On Sunday, the US carried out a third series of retaliatory attacks on Syrian militias allied with Tehran, killing their members for the first time. Still, U.S. forces have been attacked by drones or missiles at least four times since then. Sullivan said the US would continue to respond to attacks on its troops.
So far, there have been at least 52 such attacks in the last month, and injuries – although most of them minor – have been suffered by dozens of American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Syria. According to the New York Times, President Biden has so far refused to take more aggressive retaliatory steps, fearing additional escalation and expansion of the conflict in the Middle East.
From Washington Oskar Górzyński (PAP)