Uzra Zeya, US Undersecretary of State: “Hamas' tactics do not exempt Israel from complying with international legality” | International
Uzra Zeya (Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 55 years old) has dedicated countless hours in recent weeks to trying to alleviate the suffering of Gazans caused by Israel's military offensive. The US Undersecretary of State for Civil Security, Democracy and Human Rights Affairs maintains that Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip must adhere to international legality, but rejects the option of declaring a ceasefire because, she believes, it would benefit to Hamas. After traveling to Paris and Cairo to coordinate and accelerate the entry of humanitarian aid into the Strip, Zeya met on Thursday in Madrid with Ángeles Moreno, Secretary of State for Foreign and Global Affairs, and gave an interview to EL PAÍS.
Ask. Is the US Administration doing enough to minimize civilian deaths in the Strip?
Answer. We are working intensively to meet urgent humanitarian needs, to maximize, expand and accelerate the entry of aid and reduce harm to civilians. We have constant communication with our Israeli counterparts to try to reduce the suffering of the population because, although the United States strongly supports, like Spain, Israel's right to defend itself, international law, including humanitarian law, must be respected. Our diplomatic efforts have also focused on achieving the departure of thousands of foreigners who were trapped in Gaza, including some 140 Spaniards.
Q. [El secretario de Estado, Antony] Blinken declared a few days ago that “too many Palestinians have died, too many are suffering.” Is the Government of Israel heeding Washington's requests?
R. Blinken has deplored the devastating number of civilian victims in this crisis, which must be remembered that began with the horrendous terrorist acts by Hamas, in which more than 1,200 people died, including citizens of more than 30 nationalities. We deeply regret all civilian deaths and talk to Israel about how it carries out its self-defense. And we have had constructive responses from them, such as humanitarian tactical pauses and the creation of two humanitarian corridors that have allowed many civilians to safely leave the north of the Strip and go to areas in the south where they can receive humanitarian aid. .
Q. The UN Security Council approved a resolution on Wednesday calling on Israel and Hamas to agree to “humanitarian pauses” and to allow aid access to the Strip “for a sufficient number of days”, in addition to calling for the “ “immediate and unconditional release” of all the hostages of the fundamentalist militia. Why did the United States abstain from the vote?
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R. For two reasons. The resolution does not condemn the inconceivable acts of terrorism by Hamas on October 7, and we find it very difficult to understand why there are countries that refuse this. On the other hand, it does not affect the fact that countries have the right to defend themselves against terrorism, something that many countries, such as Spain, support. However, we do support the call for the release of the hostages and the adoption of longer humanitarian pauses.
Q. Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, assured a few days ago that both Israel and Hamas have perpetrated war crimes. Do you agree with him?
R. There is no doubt that Hamas indiscriminately attacked civilians, in addition to holding hostage people of all ages, from babies to Holocaust survivors. And these are obvious war crimes. Regarding Israel's actions, we are constantly monitoring the situation. War crime is a term that we use with great care and only after analyzing all the facts. And we firmly believe that Israel is making an effort to minimize civilian deaths, while being aware that Hamas uses civilians as human shields and uses hospitals and schools to store weapons and direct its operations, which makes what it has to do difficult. Israel. Hamas' tactics place Israel in a much more complicated position, but do not exempt it from its obligation to comply with international law.
Q. Hamas accuses the United States of having given Israel the green light to besiege and attack the Al Shifa hospital, the largest in the Strip. [El portavoz del Consejo de Seguridad Nacional, John] Kirby has denied this. Does the US have a clear position on the attacks on hospitals where thousands of civilians take refuge from bombs?
R. Our position is very clear. Even the president [Joe] Biden has been very clear that civilians, patients and hospital staff must be protected. And we have conveyed to all levels of the Israeli Government that hospitals must be able to function properly so that doctors can save lives. But there is plenty of information available about how Hamas has long used civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals, to direct its operations.
Q. Is the US already working on what the future Gaza will be like after the end of the Israeli offensive?
R. Absolutely. We believe, like Spain, that the only lasting solution is that of the two States. And there are certain points that we reject outright: the forced displacement of Gazans, that the Strip is a platform to launch terrorist attacks on Israel, that it remains blocked or reoccupied, and, finally, that there is a reduction in the territory of the Palestinian enclave. The future government of Gaza must be centered around the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian population, but we believe that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people. In the long term, we need to work with the Palestinian National Authority, with governments in the region and with our transatlantic allies, not only on finding a lasting solution, but also on the mechanisms for the reconstruction of Gaza.
Q. Support for Israel among the US citizenry has plummeted in recent weeks. Some recent polls show that more than 70% of the population believes that the Israeli Government should declare a ceasefire, and less than a third of Americans advocate continuing to send weapons to its main ally in the Middle East. Do you find this worrying?
R. The United States is a strong democracy where debates about our foreign policy are welcome. What we do not share are calls for Israel to stop defending itself against terrorism, which is what a permanent ceasefire would imply. Hamas cannot be allowed to repeat acts like those of October 7. We are very concerned about the rise in anti-Semitic acts in the United States and globally, but also about the rise of Islamophobia, including the horrific murder of Wadea al Fayoume, a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy who was stabbed. [a mediados de octubre en Illinois] solely because of its origins.
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