Israel Palestine Conflict

Pentagon walks back statement that Israel killed 25,000 Palestinian women, children

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The Pentagon on Thursday walked back comments made by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that 25,000 Palestinian women and children had been killed by Israel since Oct. 7.

Asked by a US lawmaker earlier in the day, how many Palestinian women and children had been killed by Israel since the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, Austin said: “It’s over 25,000.”

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He went on to say that Israel can and should do more to protect civilians, during a hearing in front of the House Armed Services Committee.

The US defense secretary added that the US had provided more than 20,000 precision-guided munitions to Israel since the start of the Gaza war.

But the Pentagon said that Austin was referring to an estimate of the total number of killed Palestinians from the Gaza Health Ministry, which Hamas runs.

The United States has backed Israel since Hamas’ unprecedented attack which resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, according to Israeli figures.

Militants also took about 250 hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 presumed dead, according to Israel.

Israel responded to the attack with a relentless assault on Gaza that the coastal territory’s health ministry said has left more than 30,000 people dead, most of them women and children.

The number provided by Austin is within the same range, and comes as Washington pushes for a ceasefire and a reduction in civilian casualties in Gaza.

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US President Joe Biden said a ceasefire in war-torn Gaza was now unlikely to happen by Monday, adding that a shooting incident at an aid point would likely complicate negotiations.

Biden said Thursday that the United States was checking “competing versions” of the incident in which the health ministry in the Palestinian territory said Israeli troops shot dead 104 people.

Earlier this week Biden had predicted a deal was possible by Monday to implement a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in exchange for the release of hostages held by Hamas.

The health ministry in Gaza said Israeli forces there opened fire on a crowd of Palestinians at an aid distribution point Thursday, killing at least 104 people and wounding over 700.

Israeli sources confirmed that troops shot at a crowd rushing towards aid trucks, believing they “posed a threat” to Israeli troops. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office however said many were crushed by the trucks themselves.

-With AFP

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