US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called upon Israel to prioritize the protection of civilians amid its ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Emphasizing the importance of shielding noncombatants, Austin drew parallels between the urban warfare dynamics in Gaza and his experiences combatting ISIS in Iraq.
Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California, Austin highlighted the lessons learned from the fight against ISIS, where a concerted effort was made by the international coalition to safeguard civilians and establish humanitarian corridors during urban battles.
Austin underscored a key principle: success in urban warfare is contingent on the protection of civilians. He argued that the civilian population becomes the focal point in such conflicts, cautioning against actions that might drive them towards the adversary, turning a tactical victory into a strategic defeat.
The recent escalation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, reignited after the collapse of a week-long truce, has led to renewed violence, with both parties attributing blame for the breakdown of the agreement.
The current conflict, rooted in longstanding tensions between Israel and Hamas, was sparked by a cross-border attack by the Palestinian militant group from Gaza on October 7, resulting in significant casualties according to Israeli officials.
Israel responded with a relentless land and air campaign on Gaza, with Hamas officials reporting a substantial toll on the population. The resulting casualties have stirred widespread anger in the Middle East, fueling attacks against American troops in the region and Israel.
Incidents, including drone and missile launches from Lebanon and Yemen targeting Israel, as well as attacks on American forces in Iraq and Syria, have prompted Washington to attribute these actions to Iran-backed forces. In response, the US has conducted multiple airstrikes in recent weeks.
Secretary Austin affirmed that the United States will not tolerate attacks on American personnel, asserting a commitment to protecting troops and imposing costs on those responsible until such attacks cease.