WASHINGTON: The United States has condemned the Israeli assault on a UN facility in Khan Yunis, emphasising the protection of civilians and the need to respect the sanctity of UN facilities.
“You’ve heard me say it before, you’ve heard [Secretary of State Antony Blinken] say it before […] civilians must be protected, and the protected nature of UN facilities must be respected,” the State Department’s spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters in Washington.
“And humanitarian workers must be protected so that they can continue providing civilians with the life-saving humanitarian assistance they need,” he added.
The spokesperson was referring to the Israeli shelling of a facility in Khan Yunis, run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in which Palestinian families had taken shelter. Twelve people were killed and 75 injured in the shelling on Wednesday.
In a separate statement issued on Thursday, a UN official called for “every measure” to be taken to protect civilians.
Thomas White, director of Gaza affairs for UNRWA, said the situation in Khan Yunis shows a “consistent failure to uphold the fundamental principles of humanitarian law”.
In Washington, the State Department spokesperson addressed concerns over specific incidents, emphasising the need for Israelis to protect UN facilities and humanitarian workers.
In reply to a question, Vedant Patel said: “We continue to raise with our Israeli partners the need and the responsibility that they have to protect UN facilities and to protect humanitarian workers so that they can continue to carry out and conduct the life-saving work that they’re doing in the region.”
Pressed for more concrete information, Mr Patel responded: “Certain conversations, diplomatic conversations — sensitive, tough diplomatic conversations — are best kept private. I assure you, though, we are raising these issues directly with Israeli counterparts and will continue to do so.”
“We intend to continue to have these conversations with the Israeli government and raise these very tough and difficult situations.”
The exchange highlighted the delicate nature of US-Israeli relations, with Patel expressing Washington’s condemnation of the attack in Khan Yunis.
UN Secretary General António Guterres emphasised the universal recognition of the Palestinian people’s right to build their independent state. “A two-state solution is the only way to address the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians,” Mr Guterres observed.
Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2024