US defense chief says Israeli Gaza offensive doomed unless civilians protected

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin says Israel cannot win in Gaza unless it protects civilians in tough urban environments, drawing on lessons from the US fight against Islamic State in Iraq.

“Like Hamas, ISIS was deeply embedded in urban areas. And the international coalition against ISIS worked hard to protect civilians and create humanitarian corridors, even during tough battles,” Austin tells lawmakers, corporate and defense leaders and government officials attending a security conference in Washington.

“So the lesson is not that you can win in urban warfare by protecting civilians. The lesson is that you can only win in urban warfare by protecting civilians,” he adds. “If you drive [Gaza’s civilians] into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.”

Defending US support to Israel and Ukraine, Austin says “the world will only become more dangerous if tyrants and terrorists believe that they can get away with wholesale aggression and mass slaughter.”

“You’ll hear some people try to brand an American retreat from responsibility as bold new leadership,” Austin said. “Make no mistake: It is not bold. It is not new. And it is not leadership,” he says, in a jibe at former president Donald Trump’s isolationist policies.

Austin asks the lawmakers in the crowd to pass both the military’s budget and the supplemental funding for the wars.

“Our competitors don’t have to operate under continuing resolutions,” he says. “And doing so erodes both our security and our ability to compete.”

— with AP

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