Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin maintained on Tuesday that the U.S. government has not seen “any evidence of genocide” being committed in Gaza by Israel, as the White House faces growing pressure over its continued support for an Israeli military offensive that’s killed tens of thousands of Palestinians.

Austin appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a budget hearing, where he argued in favor of a $850 billion foreign aid package that would allow the U.S. to spend more on military aid for Israel, as well as for Ukraine and other allies.

The secretary’s testimony was interrupted multiple times by pro-Palestinian protesters, who accused Israel of committing a genocide in Gaza and Austin of greenlighting it.

In response to the protesters, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked Austin if he believed Israel is committing genocide in the Palestinian territory.

“We don’t have any evidence of genocide being [committed],” the secretary answered.

“So that’s a no. Israel is not committing genocide in Gaza?” Cotton asked, to which Austin repeated: “We don’t have evidence of that.” The senator agreed with his answer.

The Israeli military offensive started after Hamas attacked the country on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 Israelis and taking roughly 250 hostage. About half of those hostages were released during a temporary pause in fighting several months ago, and a few dozen of the remaining prisoners are believed to be dead.

In the past six months, Israeli forces have responded by killing, displacing, torturing and imprisoning Palestinians in Gaza – including journalists, doctors and artists. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 33,300 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children. Almost 76,000 have been wounded, and thousands are missing and believed to be buried under rubble.

Israel has also destroyed institutions like mosques and churches, schools and hospitals. Health care resources are dwindling and a food crisis is ongoing.

“What I would like to say, Sen. Cotton, from the very beginning, is that we committed to help assist Israel in defending its territory and its people by providing security assistance,” the secretary said. “And I would remind everybody that what happened on Oct. 7 was absolutely horrible.”

Despite pressure from the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Austin avoided calling the Oct. 7 attack a genocide, labeling it instead as a “horrific terrorist attack” and “certainly a war crime.”

Austin said that he “absolutely” denies having greenlit genocide in Gaza, and spoke of the humanitarian crisis facing Palestinians without attributing said crisis to Israel’s U.S.-funded military offensive. Failure to open more land routes to Gaza for aid and separate Palestinian civilians from Hamas “will create more terrorists,” he added.

Pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on April 9, 2024 in Washington, D.C. Austin said that the U.S. has not seen evidence of Israel committing a genocide in Gaza.
Pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on April 9, 2024 in Washington, D.C. Austin said that the U.S. has not seen evidence of Israel committing a genocide in Gaza.

Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, called Austin’s comments “dishonest and delusional.”

The Pentagon chief’s testimony “completely ignores the fact that the Israeli government made racist, genocidal threats at the start of this war and then spent six months acting on those threats by destroying civilian infrastructure, sparking a famine, ethnically cleansing entire cities, and massacring more than 33,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement to HuffPost.

“Secretary Austin and the rest of the Biden administration should be ashamed for making our nation complicit in what is obviously a genocide.”

The Biden administration is facing increased pressure both domestically and from the international community to halt U.S. support for Israel’s military, or to at least make such support conditional on Israel abiding by international humanitarian law. The U.S. repeatedly vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding an immediate, permanent cease-fire in the region, and has defended Israel as it faces the International Court of Justice for accusations of genocide made by South Africa.

Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said that she believes officials with the international court could determine that Israel’s military offensive in Gaza legally constitutes genocide.

Francesca Albanese, the U.N. special rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories, released a detailed report in March in which she concluded that there are “reasonable grounds to believe the threshold indicating Israel’s commission of genocide is met.” Albanese called on nations to enact an arms embargo and impose sanctions on Israel, which swiftly rejected her findings.

“We cannot avert our eyes. We must confront genocide,” Albanese told the U.N. Human Rights Council. “We must prevent it and we must punish it.”


source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

American Judith Weinstein Believed To Be Killed During Hamas Attack

An elderly American teacher originally thought to have been captured alive by…

South Africa Launches Case At Top UN Court Accusing Israel Of Genocide In Gaza

The Israeli government rejected the accusations “with disgust.”source

Kamran Demirchiyev’s Stellar Performance in LG MEA’s Premier Promoter Showdown in Dubai

Dubai, UAE. December 22, 2023 – Mediamark Digital In the fast-paced realm…

Synology Leads the Way in Data Management at CIO Leaders Conference 2024

Interview with Mr. Michael Chang, Synology Sales Head, APAC & MEA Region,…