Republicans are escalating their rhetoric to call for actions to “eliminate,” “eradicate” and “level” the Hamas militant group — no matter what it takes — as Washington plots more assistance to Israel in the wake of recent attacks.
“This is sick, and we have to treat sick people the way they deserve to be treated and eliminate them,” former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who’s running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, said on Fox News on Wednesday morning.
“Do whatever the hell you have to do to defend yourself. Level the place,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News on Tuesday night.
Such rhetoric marks a contrast to the Biden administration’s calls for leaders in Jerusalem to conduct a “proportionate response” to the attacks, though the White House so far won’t say if there are any lines Jerusalem shouldn’t cross.
The combative comments by influential politicians from Israel’s most powerful ally come amid concerns for civilians as the conflict mounts following Hamas’ surprise attack breaching Israeli territory Saturday. The death toll has surpassed 2,000 people killed both in those assaults as well as by Israel’s retaliation in Gaza since.
Israeli airstrikes have demolished entire neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip and Israel also cut off the entry of food, water, fuel and medicine into the region. Gaza’s only power plant ran out of fuel Wednesday.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon on Wednesday called for the “complete and unequivocal defeat of the enemy, at any cost.”
“This war is not only against Hamas,” he said.
Israel’s actions are “nothing less than genocidal,” Palestinian envoy to the U.N. Riyad Mansour wrote in a letter to the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, citing the blocking of food shipments.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) on Wednesday called for caution in how Israel and the U.S. respond to Hamas’ attacks and hostage-taking: Two of her district constituents are missing and may be held hostage by Hamas, which she said raises concerns for their treatment by the militants, but also their safety amid Israel’s counterattacks.
“There has to be real caution that we are not putting them in further danger,” Schakowsky told reporters. “I’m talking about Americans, but there’s a number, obviously, more of the Israelis are now being held. So of course we have to worry about that.”
The Gaza Strip is home to some 2 million Palestinians — nearly half of whom are under 18 years old. It already faced threats of poverty and weak infrastructure before the latest strikes.
Schakowsky added: “I’m concerned also that if they have shut down the water and the heat … any kind of support in Gaza, then what does that mean for the people who are now hostages right now? My hope is that Hamas will take care of them in the hopes of maybe at some point of doing some exchanges for them, but we just don’t know.”
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Wednesday, “The United States’ support for Israel will be sustained, will be maintained, will be strong going forward.”
Joe Gould contributed to this report.
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