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Israel-Hamas war: Who is responsible for Gaza's enormous civilian death toll?

Israel-Hamas war: Who is responsible for Gaza's enormous civilian death toll?
2024 04 04 E0819 Quick Take CLEAN FINAL
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. And a quick take. I wanted to talk a little bit about the latest on the Israel War in Gaza. We've seen the last few days, we have had a lot of escalation, the potential for this war to continue to spill over well beyond Gaza, including potentially with Iran, which really nobody outside of the region wants to see. Most in the region really don't want to see it either, but certainly plausible. Also, a very tough call between Biden and Netanyahu just in the last few hours. This on the back of the Israeli Defense Forces strike killing seven members of aid workers for the World Central Kitchen. The very well-known organization. Their founder, chef Jose Andres, both kind of a folk hero in the United States across the political spectrum for Democrats and Republicans and the Israelis have immediately apologized and taken responsibility for the act.

Now Jose Andres is, he's obviously very angry. He's very upset. Who wouldn't be in that environment? He's blaming Israel, says that this was intentionally targeting his workers. I have a hard time believing that the Israeli Defense Forces would have wanted to kill his workers intentionally in the sense that they understand the blowback that would come and the idea of just going after aid workers, if the West were to find out about that, would clearly be damaging for Israel across the board. Having said that, I do believe that they targeted these convoys. In other words, they knew that they were going to hit aid workers, but they believed that one of the people in this convoy was a militant, a Hamas militant, and the willingness to take civilian casualties, known civilian casualties in order to get a target that has some value, Hamas target is not only considered acceptable, but is sort of standard practice in the war in Gaza.

So yes, they hit one of the cars in the convoy, the truck, then the second and then a third. Those targets were assessed and evaluated. These are not dumb missiles. These are guided missiles, and they know exactly what they are hitting and what they are trying to take out. The question of course is, is this acceptable? And this is not new. It is not a one-off. I mean, they apologize this time because of the high level of attention, because it's Jose Andres and because an American and Westerners were killed.

But others have brought this up in previous aid worker strikes. We saw Cindy McCain on behalf of the World Food Program connected to the United Nations, has said that this has been going on for months now, and she's brought it up and Congress members have brought it up directly with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He's promised he's going to do something about it. That hasn't been the case. Hasn't gotten much attention because there you're talking about Palestinians that are getting targeted and getting killed, and that doesn't get anywhere near the attention that Jose Andres and an American and a bunch of white people.

But nonetheless, it is a consistent level of focus of if you're trying to ensure that you are getting every high, mid and low value Hamas militant target, and there's tens of thousands of them, you are willing to accept that large numbers of civilians are going to get caught up in this. Now, who's to blame for all of this? Anyone that's saying the Israelis are only to blame for this, I strongly disagree because Hamas, as an organization is operating in civilian areas, densely populated civilian areas, in hospitals, under hospitals, in schools, under schools with human shields. They're doing so intentionally both to try to protect their fighters, but also to ensure maximum PR information war damage on the Israelis when they target Hamas so that they have to be responsible for killing civilians.

And the fact that Hamas is actively doing that, putting their civilians in maximum danger, maximum danger, to help ensure that they can achieve their own ideological and political goals, it means that they are responsible for deaths of Palestinian civilians. But anyone that says that Hamas is solely responsible and Israel has no responsibility, clearly isn't paying attention. I mean, if Israel is apologizing for these aid workers because they happen to be Westerners, that means that they are targeting people that is excessive, that that's not okay even if they believe that there is one militant in that group. And that would be equally true if those people that were killed were all Palestinians. It's not just because they are Australians or Americans, that their lives have value after all. And we are talking about over 30,000 people that have been killed. Two thirds of which according to the IDF are civilians.

That's an enormous number. It's a higher rate of civilian casualties per day than we have seen in any war in modern times. More than Syria, more than Iraq, more than Afghanistan, or Ukraine, or Sudan, or Yemen. That's what we're seeing in Gaza right now. And that is why the United States government has said that they will not continue to support Israel the way they have if there is not a change in protection of civilians and ensuring that humanitarian aid gets through. This is new for the Biden administration. President Biden has been very, very reluctant to have any direct consequences to the Israelis. And now you are talking about conditioning a level of military support for Israel on an active change, not just no longer attacking Rafah, which is something that Netanyahu has said he's going to do. The war cabinet has said they're going to do, and they have not yet done a ground offensive on the ground in Rafah.

But now they're saying, unless you change the rules for how you are protecting civilians and how you are allowing humanitarian aid, then American aid for Israel is going to be withdrawn, American military support. It's a hard thing for Biden to do. He's going to get a lot of opposition both from Republicans and from some Democrats and Bibi Netanyahu is going to increasingly, I suspect publicly, try to use that against him. Now, the pressure is on the Israeli Prime Minister at home. It is growing because, well, for a number of reasons. One is because they're having a hard time with whether or not there will be exemptions for Orthodox, for the Haredim, Jews that are given exemptions from military service. Benny Gantz has said, if that exemption continues, that he's not going to stay in the government. On the other hand, the far right, the religious right have said that they will no longer support Netanyahu and his coalition if he backs away from that.

Now you've seen that Gantz has said that he is no longer going to support the government going forward. He's calling for elections, though if he pulls out of the war cabinet, then they still have a coalition in the Knesset. So it's not an immediate push away from Netanyahu, but the pressure is growing. Clearly Bibi is more willing both to continue and escalate the war, but also to take the fight directly and politically to Biden and the United States to do what he can to stay in power. So that pressure's growing. That certainly is part of it. It informs why we're seeing more talk of growing strikes into Lebanon, deeper into Lebanon that could bring Hezbollah into the war. This also informs the decision to attack right next to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, taking out a high-level IRGC leader that is providing support in the proxy war in Syria against the United States, against Israel makes it more likely, whether by accident or through direct escalation that the United States and Israel are eventually in a war with Iran.

And the one part of the conversation between the Israeli Prime Minister and Biden that was clearly aligned was when Biden told the Israelis that they are very aware of the expanded threats from Iran against Israel. And the US will do everything they can to support Israel in that fight. So this is a really, really sticky situation politically. It is a very dangerous military situation in the region. It is one that is clearly hurting Biden at home. It's likely to get worse before it gets better. That's it for me. I'll talk to you all real soon. Be good.


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