VP Harris calls on Israel to respect international law, stop killing innocent Palestinians

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WASHINGTON - Vice President Kamala Harris gave remarks in Dubai on Saturday that sharply criticized both Hamas and Israel, saying the Biden administration wants the conflict to end and for both to provide more protection for Palestinians in Gaza.

Harris, in her most extensive public comments to date about the war in Gaza, stressed that Israel had a right to defend itself from attacks by Hamas, which killed about 1,200 people and kidnapped another 240 in a brutal Oct. 7 cross-border attack. She acknowledged that the U.S.-designated terrorist group wants to wipe out its existence, but added that Israel “must do more to protect civilian life” in its military response.

More: Biden is sending $100M in aid into Gaza. Is any of it ending up in the hands of Hamas?

"Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed”

In conversations with Israeli leaders, Harris said that she and President Biden have stressed that, “The United States is unequivocal; international humanitarian law must be respected. Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed.”

“Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating,” Harris added.

The vice president’s remarks appear to go further than the Biden Administration has in the past in terms of criticizing Israel’s attacks on Hamas in Gaza, which have destroyed much of Gaza City.

Harris made them after meeting Saturday with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, key mediators in the Israel-Hamas conflict, to discuss the efforts to release all hostages taken by Hamas and the future of people in Gaza after the war, according to the White House.

The meetings were held on the sidelines of the U.N. climate conference known as COP28 in Dubai, where Harris is representing the Biden administration along with other senior officials.

Saturday also marked the first day after Israel resumed its bombardment of Gaza following the breakdown of a weeklong truce with Hamas. The Israeli military said it struck over 400 targets, including many in the crowded south of Gaza where many residents of Gaza City in the north have fled to escape Israeli bombardment.

In all, more than 15,200 Palestinians have been killed since the war broke out nearly two months ago, the Gaza Health Ministry said Saturday in its most recent update. At least 200 Palestinians were killed in the day since fighting resumed, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said.

Calling on Israel to show more restraint

More: Could an independent probe help assess blame for Gaza strike? Yes, but it's tricky.

In her speech, Harris also called on Israel and other parties to show more restraint once the conflict is over. “No forcible displacement, no reoccupation, no siege or blockade, no reduction in territory and no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism,” she said.

And she said the Palestinian Authority that oversees the Gaza Strip and West Bank must strengthen its security forces so that it can eventually assume security responsibilities in Gaza.

“Until then,” Harris said, “there must be security arrangements that are acceptable to Israel, the people of Gaza, the (PA), and international partners.”

"Today, the Gaza Strip is once again the most dangerous place in the world to be a child," UNICEF said in a statement. "After seven days of respite from horrific violence, fighting has resumed. More children will surely die as a result."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kamala Harris issues sharp rebuke of Israel for Gaza loss of life