WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin urged Israel on Saturday to protect civilians as it battles Hamas in Gaza, saying that shielding non-combatants is necessary for victory in the urban fight against the Palestinian group.

Austin told the Reagan National Defence Forum in California that he had “learned a thing or two about urban warfare” while fighting in Iraq and leading the campaign against the militant Islamic State group (ISIS).

“Like Hamas, ISIS was deeply embedded in urban areas. And the international coalition against ISIS worked hard to protect civilians and create humanitarian corridors, even during the toughest battles,” Austin said.

“The lesson is not that you can win in urban warfare by protecting civilians. The lesson is that you can only win in urban warfare by protecting civilians,” he said.

“In this kind of a fight, the centre of gravity is the civilian population. “And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.”

The deaths of non-combatants have provoked wide­spread anger in the Middle East and provided an impetus for armed groups to carry out attacks against American troops in the region as well as on Israel.

Israel has faced drone and missiles launched from Lebanon and Yemen, while American forces in Iraq and Syria have been targeted in a series of attacks.

Washington has blamed the attacks on its personnel on “Iran-backed forces” and responded with air strikes on multiple occasions in recent weeks.

“We will not tolerate attacks on American personnel. And so these attacks must stop,” Austin said. “Until they do, we will do what we need to do to protect our troops — and to impose costs on those who attack them.”

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Little respite
03 Mar, 2024

Little respite

IS inflation on its way out? The Consumer Price Index showed that inflation dropped to 23.1pc in February from ...
More slaughter
Updated 03 Mar, 2024

More slaughter

Israel’s extremist leaders are on an apocalyptic mission to ethnically cleanse Gaza.
Without VCs
03 Mar, 2024

Without VCs

THE delay in appointing vice chancellors across Pakistan’s universities has mushroomed into a crisis, with one...
Urgent challenge
Updated 02 Mar, 2024

Urgent challenge

The incoming finance team will have to prioritise economic decisions over political considerations and personal whims.
Contempt ruling
02 Mar, 2024

Contempt ruling

AN Islamabad High Court decision penalising the city’s deputy commissioner, a senior superintendent of police and ...
Streets of death
02 Mar, 2024

Streets of death

A LIFE without a sense of permanence is one aspect of a human crisis as complex as homelessness. But the fact that...