The comment, which came from National Security Council coordinator John Kirby on Monday, occurred hours after the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry said the death toll had surpassed 10,000, with more than 25,000 people wounded. The Biden administration has previously cast doubt on the ministry’s trustworthiness due to Hamas’s control of it, but U.S. officials have hesitated to provide estimates of the death toll themselves.
“You’ve seen some indications there are efforts being applied in certain scenarios to try to minimize, but I don’t want to overstate that. There have obviously been, to your point, many, many thousands of innocent people killed, and each one’s a tragedy. We don’t want to see any innocent life taken as a result of this war,” Kirby said, also noting that the U.S. couldn’t corroborate Hamas’s tally.
Similarly, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said on Monday it believed the civilian death toll was in the “thousands,” but he would not narrow that down further.
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For the first three weeks or so after the attack, Israel’s initial response consisted of a heavy aerial bombardment of Gaza. The strikes have caused significant damage to Gaza’s infrastructure, and some have hit heavily populated civilian areas. An Israeli strike last week hit a heavily populated area in Jabalia, and there was an international outcry following it. U.S. officials asked the Israeli military to provide an explanation of this strike in particular, according to Politico.
Publicly, the Biden administration has repeatedly stated its support for Israel and its right to self-defense, but the staggering death toll and growing humanitarian concerns within Gaza, among other reasons, have led to increased calls for the U.S. to push for a ceasefire. Administration officials have argued against a ceasefire, saying that it would allow Hamas a chance to regroup and launch additional attacks in Israel like the Oct. 7 massacre, the worst in Israel’s history.
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