US nominee Campbell says he’s not in favor of making support for Israel conditional

FILE PHOTO: Then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell is pictured as he speaks to the media in Tokyo January 17, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

By Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Deputy Secretary of State nominee Kurt Campbell said in a Senate hearing on Thursday that he is currently not in favor of making American support for Israel conditional, amid calls for the United States to use the aid as leverage to force Israel to do more to protect civilians in the conflict in Gaza.

Asked by Senator Bob Menendez if it would be his advice to create conditionality on aid to Israel, Campbell responded, “It would not be at this time.”

Top U.S. officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have urged Israel publicly to conduct a more surgical offensive in southern Gaza to avoid the heavy civilian casualties inflicted by its attacks in the north.

But since a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas broke down last Friday, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive in the south.

The Gaza health ministry said 17,177 Palestinians had been killed and 46,000 wounded since Oct. 7, when Israel began bombing the enclave in response to an assault by Hamas militants who control Gaza. In the past 24 hours alone, 350 people had been killed, ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said.

The Biden administration will continue to push Israel to change tactics, but it is unlikely to resort to the kind of measures that might force it to listen, such as threatening to restrict military aid, U.S. officials have told Reuters.

But Campbell said Washington was in constant contact about the issue with its Israeli counterparts.

“There are daily conversations at the very highest levels between senior officials in the U.S. government and Israel — our senior military, their senior military — about their military plans, and we have expressed very clear views about the conduct of operations more generally,” Campbell said.

“We do have very clear interests in ensuring that this conflict be conducted within what we would view as the humane rules of war,” he added.

United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk warned on Wednesday there was a heightened risk of “atrocity crimes” in Gaza, urging parties involved to refrain from committing such violations.


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