Former President Obama issued a new statement Monday on the ongoing violence taking place in Israel and Gaza as the death toll continues to tick up.
In a lengthy statement, Obama again condemned the deadly attacks launched by the militant group Hamas on Oct. 7 in what he called an “unspeakable brutality.” While he maintained Israel had a right to defend itself against the attacks, he reiterated the need to abide by “international law.”
“But even as we support Israel, we should also be clear that how Israel prosecutes this fight against Hamas matters. In particular, it matters — as President Biden has repeatedly emphasized — that Israel’s military strategy abides by international law, including those laws that seek to avoid, to every extent possible, the death or suffering of civilian populations,” Obama wrote.
He said upholding international law is “vital for building alliances and shaping international opinion.” The former president emphasized that doing so is an “enormously difficult task,” noting that military operations “often put civilians at risk.”
The attacks on Israel have resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians across the region. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, mostly in the initial attack launched by Hamas on Oct. 7. The U.S. and other countries have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.
During the attack, Hamas militants also took more than 200 people hostage during its initial raid on Israel, including many believed to be civilians. At least four hostages have been released so far as officials from multiple countries negotiate for their release.
More than 5,000 Palestinians have been killed so far in the conflict in Gaza, including an estimated 2,055 children and 1,119 women, with more than 15,000 injured, the Gaza Health Ministry reported Monday.
In his statement, Obama warned that a growing humanitarian crisis is underway in the region, citing Israel’s move to cut off crucial supplies to Gaza in the wake of the attacks, which he warned could put support for Israel at risk.
“The Israeli government’s decision to cut off food, water and electricity to a captive civilian population threatens not only to worsen a growing humanitarian crisis; it could further harden Palestinian attitudes for generations, erode global support for Israel, play into the hands of Israel’s enemies, and undermine long term efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region,” he wrote.
Obama concluded his statement by urging people to reject antisemitic, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiments. He also recognized Israel has “every right to exist,” but Palestinians have “also lived in disputed territories for generations.”
“But if we care about keeping open the possibility of peace, security and dignity for future generations of Israeli and Palestinian children — as well as for our own children — then it falls upon all of us to at least make the effort to model, in our own words and actions, the kind of world we want them to inherit,” he concluded.
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