US Vice President Kamala Harris confirmed that the Biden administration will not allow the forced removal of Palestinians out of Gaza or the West Bank, as the Israeli bombardment of the territory resumed following the expiration of a weeklong truce with Hamas.
“Under no circumstances will the United States permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, the besiegement of Gaza, or the redrawing of the borders of Gaza,” Harris said in a meeting on Saturday with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt, according to a readout of the remarks.
Harris, following meetings with Arab leaders in Dubai for the COP28 climate conference, said that while the US continued to endorse Israel’s right to defend itself, she was also concerned by the growing humanitarian crisis.
“The United States is unequivocal: International humanitarian law must be respected. Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed,” the vice president said in a press conference, adding that “the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating.”
The US wants “significant resources” on a global scale for a postwar Gaza governed by a strengthened Palestinian Authority, according to Harris. Palestinians will eventually need assistance rebuilding homes and infrastructure, while their security forces should be “strengthened to eventually assume … some responsibilities in Gaza.”
In the eight weeks since Hamas’ October 7 attack, the wartime death toll in Gaza has risen to over 15,000 Palestinians—including more than 10,000 women and children—according to data from the Gaza Health Ministry. The pace of killing, The New York Times reported in November, has few precedents in any conflict this century, including an additional 200 Palestinians killed by Israel after military operations resumed.
The weeklong truce, mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, allowed hundreds of aid trucks to enter Gaza, where the fighting has displaced 1.7 out of the territory’s 2.2 million people. The International Rescue Committee, an aid group operating in Gaza, warned that the return of fighting will “wipe out even the minimal relief” provided by the truce and “prove catastrophic for Palestinian civilians.” The head of the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees told the Financial Times Friday that Gaza “might be on the eve of a perfect kind of humanitarian catastrophe-tsunami.”
In the immediate term, Harris called for security arrangements in Gaza that “are acceptable to Israel, the people of Gaza, the Palestinian Authority, and the international partners,” but said that ultimately, the administration’s aspiration is for a “unified Gaza and West Bank under the Palestinian Authority,” with “Palestinian voices and aspirations…at the center of this work.”
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