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Pentagon chief admits over 25,000 women and children killed by Israel since Oct 7

Anadolu Agency MIDDLE EAST
Published March 01,2024

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin admitted Thursday that Israeli forces have killed more than 25,000 Palestinian women and children since an attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 last year, stressing that munitions provided to "allies and partners" should be used responsibly.

Austin's remarks came during a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee when California Rep. Ro Khanna questioned him about the death toll caused by the Israeli army since the cross-border incursion last year by the Palestinian group.

Asked whether he would halt future military sales to Israel if it moves forward with an assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah with no plan in place for civilian safety, he said: " I expect that when we provide munitions to allies and partners that they'll use them in a responsible way."

Austin was also asked about the precautions that the Israeli army was taking to protect civilians, saying that "based on the results and the significant loss of life, there's more that should be done."

Shortly after his remarks, Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder said that Austin's "answer was citing an estimate from the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry that more than 25,000 total Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. We cannot independently verify these Gaza casualty figures."

"We're dependent on open-source information, like many of you. We're certain that thousands of people have been killed, but as for the specific numbers, we cannot verify those specific statistics," he added.

Israel has launched a deadly military offensive on the Gaza Strip since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, which Tel Aviv says killed nearly 1,200 people.

At least 30,035 Palestinians have since been killed and over 70,457 others injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

Israel has also imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip, leaving its population, particularly residents of northern Gaza, on the verge of starvation.

The Israeli war has pushed 85% of Gaza's population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.