Pentagon Chief Says Civilian Death Toll ‘Far Too High’ In Gaza Day After US Abstained From Key UN Vote

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Tuesday said that the civilian death toll is “far too high” in the Gaza Strip, expressing concern to Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, Al-Jazeera reported. The development follows a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in the war-torn Palestinian enclave.

On Monday, despite the US abstaining from the ceasefire vote, the UN Security Council overwhelmingly passed the resolution urging the urgent need to halt the violence in Gaza. As per media reports, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 32,000 Palestinians since Israel initiated its military offensive in early October.

During a meeting with Gallant in Washington, DC, Austin said that the humanitarian aid reaching Gaza is “far too less”, stressing that urgent action is required to address the unfolding catastrophe.

“Gaza is facing a humanitarian crisis, and the situation is deteriorating,” stated the Pentagon chief, as reported by Al-Jazeera. “Immediate increases in assistance are necessary to prevent famine. Our efforts to establish a temporary humanitarian corridor by sea will provide some relief, but expanding aid deliveries by land is essential”. 

Israel’s blockade of critical humanitarian aid to Gaza has exacerbated the dire conditions, raising fears of widespread famine.

READ | Gaza Hospitals Brim With Starving Kids As Israeli PM Netanyahu Pushes On With Military Offensive

As per the Al-Jazeera report, the decision by the US to abstain from the UN vote rather than exercise its veto power has drawn attention to President Joe Biden’s apparent “dissatisfaction” with Israeli leadership, particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Earlier, Netanyahu had criticised the Biden administration for not opposing the resolution and rebuffed a planned visit to the US by an Israeli government delegation.

Reports from US and Israeli media outlets suggest that Gallant’s visit to Washington aims to expedite weapon shipments to Israel.

On Tuesday, the Israeli defence minister indicated his intention to discuss enhancing US-Israel cooperation to maintain Israel’s military superiority and capabilities during his meeting with Austin.

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