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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Has Blunt Welcome for His Israeli Counterpart

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Has Blunt Welcome for His Israeli Counterpart
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, meets Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, second left, at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on March 26. Photographer: Drew Angerer/AFP/Getty Images

(Bloomberg) -- The number of “civilian casualties is far too high, and the amount of humanitarian aid is far too low” in the Gaza war, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a blunt welcome to his Israeli counterpart at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

The US visit by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was already underway when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a trip to Washington by other senior officials after the Biden administration decided not to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

Read more: Israel Cancels DC Trip After US Allows UN Cease-Fire Resolution

Although a US defense official described Austin and Gallant as good friends, the growing tensions over Israel’s conduct of the war were evident. Gallant made no reply to Austin’s remarks on casualties and aid, according to a Pentagon transcript, focusing on Israel’s fight against Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union. He said Israel faces “attacks from seven different fronts” and cited Iran’s support for groups threatening his country.

Negotiations to free hostages held by Hamas “require us to join hands in our military and diplomatic efforts” and increase pressure on Hamas, Gallant said, according to the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

The US defense official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said that Austin emphasized Israel must move the more than one million civilians sheltering in the southern Gaza city of Rafah out of harm’s way before launching an attack on Hamas forces there.

Speaking to reporters later, Gallant said that “the ground maneuvering in Gaza serves two goals: destroying Hamas as a military organization, and creating the conditions necessary to bring the hostages home.”

“We discussed the humanitarian efforts in Gaza – not only in terms of bringing the aid in but the real issue of distribution,” he added. “Hamas is doing everything to sabotage the delivery of aid and to create pressure at the expense of the Palestinian people.”

Gallant also met with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in what White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described as a “good, productive meeting.”

Speaking to reporters on board Air Force One, Jean-Pierre said Sullivan conveyed President Joe Biden’s “ironclad support for Israel’s security and defense against all threats, including Iran” and also “discussed the need for Israel to do more to sustain and expand humanitarian assistance going into Gaza.” Gallant also met Monday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

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  • Christopher Bedford says:

    Hmm. From the 50s through to the 80s, the South African government held that they were right and that the rest of the world was wrong about apartheid and forcing an entire people to live in townships and that the ANC were not a legitimate leadership. I wonder if there are any parallels with modern Israel.

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