U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday the evidence of sexual violence committed by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 is ‘beyond anything that I’ve seen.’
Appearing on CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ Blinken was asked by host Jake Tapper why he thinks the United Nations and the international community have been so slow to condemn the atrocities, despite evidence mounting in Israel of rapes and sex crimes committed by Hamas against women and girls, and maybe even against men on Oct. 7.
‘I’ve heard antisemitism hypothesized as a reason why the U.N. and the international community might be so slow to acknowledge this. What do you think?’ Tapper asked.
‘I don’t have an answer. I don’t know why countries, leaders, international organizations were so slow to focus on this, to bring it to people’s attention. I’m glad it’s finally happened,’ Blinken said. ‘The atrocities that we saw on Oct. 7 are almost beyond human description or beyond our capacity to digest. And we’ve talked about them before. But the sexual violence that we saw on Oct. 7 is beyond anything that I’ve seen either.’
The United States stood alone at the U.N. Security Council on Friday to block a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.
The vote in the 15-member council was 13-1, with the United Kingdom abstaining. The United States’ isolated stand reflected a growing fracture between Washington and some of its closest allies over Israel’s months-long bombardment of Gaza. France and Japan were among those supporting the call for a cease-fire.
In a vain effort to press the Biden administration to drop its opposition to calling for a halt to the fighting, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were all in Washington on Friday. But their meeting with Blinken took place only after the U.N. vote. The Biden administration revealed Saturday that the State Department is also sidestepping Congress to rush $106.5 million worth of tank ammunition to Israel after a congressional aid package failed to clear amid debate about funding for border security.
‘We want to make sure that as Israel continues this, this campaign… remember, they are dealing with a terrorist organization that engaged in the most vicious possible brutality on Oct. 7 and has made clear that it would do it again and again and again if given the opportunity,’ Blinken said Sunday. ‘So Israel needs to be able to deal with this to protect itself, to prevent Oct. 7 from happening again. But as it does that, it’s imperative that civilians be protected.’
‘And here the critical thing is to make sure that the military operations are designed around civilian protection and to focus on that when it comes to humanitarian assistance that we, as you know, made the argument many weeks ago to get humanitarian assistance in, it started to flow. We got it doubled during the humanitarian pause for the hostage releases that we helped to negotiate,’ the secretary continued. ‘But now what’s critical is this. Even as Israel has taken additional steps, for example, to designate safe areas in the south, to focus on neighborhoods, not entire cities, in terms of evacuating them.’
He also addressed ‘a gap between the intent to protect Palestinian civilians and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground in Gaza.’
‘What we’re not seeing sufficiently is a couple of things. One, making sure that the humanitarian operators who are there, starting with the United Nations, performing heroically, that there are deconfliction times, places and routes so that the humanitarians can bring the assistance that’s getting into Gaza to the people who need it,’ Blinken said.
‘Similarly, we need to see the same kind of deconfliction. Time pauses. Designated routes, plural… not just one. And clarity of communication so that people know when it is safe and where it is safe to move to get out of harm’s way before they go back home. These are the kinds of things we’re working on every single day, again, to make sure that that gap between intent and result is as narrow as possible.’
The Associated Press contributed to this report.