The US State Department absolved Israel of responsibility for the murder of four Palestinian children in Gaza on Wednesday, placing the blame squarely on Hamas.
The four children were killed and three others badly wounded by Israeli fire as they played on a beach in Gaza on Wednesday afternoon. Dozens of international journalists stationed at the nearby Al-Deira Hotel watched in horror as after an initial strike, Israeli fire chased after the terrified children as they ran for their lives screaming for help, firing at them a second time.
Forty-six children have been killed and hundreds more injured during Israel’s relentless bombing of the besieged Gaza Strip, now in its tenth day. But this latest slaughter happened in the presence of journalists from major media outlets accross the globe, garnering more attention for the killings than they would have otherwise received.
During Wednesday’s US State Department press briefing, a reporter asked, “How is an Israeli airstrike on what can only be described as a civilian target in full view of international journalists be [sic] acceptable to the US government?”
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki replied that the loss of life in Gaza is “absolutely tragic,” but she blamed Hamas for the deaths, specifically citing Hamas’ rejection of a unilateral ceasefire proposal by Egypt and Israel, which Hamas was never consulted on.
“I would remind you that yesterday there was a ceasefire proposed that was abided to by the Israelis for a couple of hours that Hamas did not abide to,” said Psaki, adding, “they’re putting their own people at risk by continuing to escalate the situation on the ground.”
Reporters continued to raise questions about the rising civilian death toll caused by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, and each time Psaki blamed Palestinian rocket fire on Israel, saying, “Hamas is putting their own people in Gaza at risk by continuing their actions.”
The lengthy back-and-forth is distilled in the following exchange:
QUESTION: So the people who have been killed, including these children – it’s – frankly, it doesn’t seem to – it doesn’t faze you?
MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what I said. I think I’ve stated multiple times that the deaths of civilians, the loss of lives for children and individuals in Gaza is horrific and is a tragedy. And that’s why we’re so focused on bringing an end to the violence, and I think that’s far more important than a speculation about —
QUESTION: Right, but it’s – but it’s horrific and it’s a tragedy, but you’re saying that it’s the fault of Hamas for not stopping the rocket fire.
MS. PSAKI: They certainly are at fault in part here, yes.
Earlier in the briefing, Associated Press reporter Matt Lee inquired about a newly-released Human Rights Watch report condemning Israel for unlawfully targeting civilians in Gaza. The report also calls for an end to Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.
Asked if the State Department agrees with the report’s demand that Israel stop bombing civilians in Gaza, Psaki responded that the administration does not believe Israel is violating international law. As for Human Rights Watch’s call for an end to Palestinian rocket fire, Psaki responded, “Certainly, we would agree.”
Psaki went on to reaffirm US support for Israel’s “right to self-defense,” a privilege the US refuses to grant Palestinians as Israel occupies, colonizes and kills them en masse.