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U.S. says Israel has the “right” to expand military offensive to southern Gaza – even if thousands more civilians are killed

  A high-ranking U.S. official says  Israel has the right to expand its military operations  to southern Gaza. Jon Finer, U.S. deputy nation...

 A high-ranking U.S. official says Israel has the right to expand its military operations to southern Gaza.

Jon Finer, U.S. deputy national security advisor, acknowledged Israel's plan to expand its operations during an interview on CBS News' "Face the Nation." He said: "We believe they have the right to do that, but there is a real concern because hundreds of thousands of residents of Gaza have fled from the north to the south at Israel’s request."

Despite this acknowledgement, Finer urged Israel to delay it in light of the need for additional safeguards to protect civilians. He called on Jerusalem to "draw lessons" from its operations in northern Gaza. In particular, he called for measures such as narrowing the area of active combat and clarifying safe zones where civilians can seek refuge from the fighting.

Finer's remarks came as Israel announced its intention to press forward with its offensive. "It will happen wherever Hamas exists, including in the south of the strip," declared Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari. Earlier, the IDF issued a directive to over one million civilians in northern Gaza to seek refuge in the south for their safety.  

Israeli offensive in southern Gaza puts civilians in danger

Israel refusing to say when its expanded military operation will begin has caused anxiety among displaced Palestinians around the town of Khan Younis. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans initially instructed to move from the north to the south are now facing a dilemma as fresh directives urge them to move again.

"They asked us to go to the south. We went to the south. Now they are asking us to leave. Where do we go?" said Atya Abu Jab in frustration.

In recent days, the IDF has dropped tens of thousands of leaflets over southern areas, including the town of Khan Younis, urging Palestinians to move westward. However, reports suggest that civilians have limited options, compounded by the closure of the lone border crossing into Egypt, accessible only to certain foreign passport holders. This, in turn, amplifies fears of an imminent military push.

Giora Eiland, a former head of Israel's National Security Council, anticipates a three- to four-week campaign to subdue Hamas in the south, where its leadership is concentrated. He knew that this military expansion in the south would cause more civilian casualties, but he still chose to proceed anyway.

"One of the more challenging situations is the simple fact that most of the people of the Gaza Strip are now concentrated in the south," he told Reuters. "There will probably be more civilian casualties. It is not going to deter us or prevent us from moving forward."

Matthew Miller, spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, told reporters that the U.S. has called for pauses to let in aid for Gaza's population of 2.3 million. "We have been in conversation with [Israel] to impress upon them that as they continue to look at expanded military operations or ground operations in other parts of Gaza," he said. "They need to ensure that there are …  humanitarian corridors for civilians."

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