U.S. “does not want to see firefights in hospitals” as bombardment in Gaza continues, Jake Sullivan says
Washington — White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday the U.S. has conveyed to Israel that it should avoid armed combat near hospitals in Gaza.
“The United States does not want to see firefights in hospitals, where innocent people, patients receiving medical care, are caught in the crossfire, and we’ve had active consultations with the Israeli Defense Forces on this,” Sullivan told “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
Hospitals have ended up in the crosshairs of the war between Hamas and Israel, with the latter saying the terrorist group is using medical facilities to shield itself, while Israel has been accused of harming innocent civilians as it targets militants.
Israel has said Hamas has a command center underneath Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, which Hamas denies.
The World Health Organization said Saturday that it had lost communication with its contacts inside Al-Shifa Hospital.
Sullivan declined to confirm whether the Israeli assertion is accurate, citing the need to protect intelligence, but said Hamas has a track record of using hospitals and other civilian facilities for its command centers, to store its weapons and house fighters.
“And this is a violation of the laws of war,” he said.
International humanitarian law protects hospitals during war, but medical facilities can lose such protections when they are used as a base to launch an attack, for storing weapons or sheltering combatants, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
There are hundreds of patients at the hospital, including newborn and premature babies, who need to be evacuated from the hospital, which has no fuel, electricity, access to drinkable water or internet connection, Christos Christou, the international president of Doctors Without Borders, told “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
“The health workers have been so overwhelmed and exhausted and they are in a position at the moment that they cannot even offer anything,” he said.
Christou said there is no plan to evacuate the hospital, which would take weeks. He said he has not heard “any news about coordinated action” for the Israeli military to evacuate children and other patients from the hospital.
“We have reports that people trying to leave the hospital also have been shot down,” Christou said. “There are airstrikes in the hospitals as well.”
Sullivan also said the U.S. is still trying help Americans who want to flee Gaza. About 400 Americans are stuck in Gaza, according to the State Department.
“We’re trying to create a circumstance where every one of them can get safe passage out of Gaza. The gate has been open and closed,” he said. “The lists have included Americans some days and not other days. But the bottom line is today the gate is open. We are moving American citizens and their family members out and in the days ahead.”
Source: CBS News