Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during an interview that during its war with Hamas, “Israel has not acted in a manner that’s consistent with international humanitarian law.”


Partial Transcript:

MARGARET BRENNAN: There are deep concerns about the Palestinian death toll, as even Prime Minister Netanyahu conceded that his forces have in fact killed more civilians than members of Hamas. We begin this morning with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who joins us from the State Department. Good morning, Mr. Secretary. I know military experts say Gaza is as complicated and challenging a battlefield as any modern warfare has seen. But back in December, President Biden said Israel conducted indiscriminate bombing. In February, he said Israel’s offensive was over the top. And then this past week, he was asked on CNN about pausing the delivery of 3,500 bombs. Here’s what he said.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers. I made it clear that if they go into Rafah…I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah- to deal with the cities to deal with that problem.


BRENNAN: Mr. Secretary, is Israel living up to international humanitarian law standards?

BLINKEN: Well first Margaret, good morning, and as you know, we put out a full report on that. But let me say this from the start. From day one, President Biden has been determined to support Israel in defending itself and trying to make sure that October 7 never happens again. At the same time, he’s been very clear that in doing that, it’s imperative that Israel protect civilians, and make sure that humanitarian assistance gets to those who need it. And that’s what we’ve been doing from day one. The report that- that we put out, lays out some of the concerns that we’ve had throughout this period when it comes to humanitarian assistance, particularly the early months after October 7. And when it comes to the use of weapons, concerns about incidents where given the totality of the damage that’s been done to children, women, men, it was reasonable to assess that, in certain instances, Israel acted in ways that are not consistent with international humanitarian law. It’s also critical to note that Israel itself has accountability processes to get at this. There are hundreds of ongoing inquiries looking at different incidents that have taken place since October 7. There are criminal investigations that are going forward unlike most other countries in the world, Israel has the ability, the means and the actions to self correct. But we’ve been on this every single day.

BRENNAN: So you have been able then to conclude that Israel has violated US laws and weapons sharing agreements?

BLINKEN: No. We’ve concluded is in the case of the the use of weapons, as you said, this is an extraordinarily complex military environment in which you have an enemy, Hamas, that committed the most atrocious terrorist attacks on Israel, October 7, and then retreats to Gaza, hides behind and underneath civilians, in hospitals, schools, mosques, apartment buildings. And that makes it very difficult to determine, particularly in the midst of war, exactly what happened and to draw any final conclusions from any one incident. So we have a number of incidents that we continue to look at, to try to get the best possible assessment. The Israelis themselves are doing the same thing. Our assessments will be ongoing. But as I said, given the totality of what we’ve seen in terms of civilian suffering, in terms of children, women, men caught in this crossfire Hamas is making who’ve been killed or been injured. It’s reasonable to assess that in a number of instances. Israel has not acted in a manner that’s consistent with international humanitarian law.

BRENNAN: So I understand you’re still collecting evidence but on the policy, can you clarify? Because even the lead Democrat on House Armed Services says it’s not clear. Is the US slowing down the delivery of any weapons to Israel at this point beyond the 3,500 so-called dumb bombs?

BLINKEN: So let me be clear about this too. First, just to take a step back, no president- no president has done more To defend Israel when it really mattered than Joe Biden. He was there in Israel in the days after October 7, the first American President to go to Israel in the midst of a war. When Iran mounted an unprecedented attack on Israel launching 300 projectiles, including ballistic missiles, the United States for the first time ever participated in Israel’s active defense. And we brought together a coalition of countries to defend against the Iranian attack. But we’ve also been very clear over many months now about our concerns about a major military operation in Rafah. As you know, Margaret, most of the population from Gaza, displaced from the north, and from Central Gaza, has gone to Rafah, there are about 1.4 million people there. And we said to Israel that we cannot, will not support an operation in Rafah, a major military operation, in the absence of a credible plan to protect civilians.