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US Senator Lindsey Graham downplays Gaza deaths: 'What's too many?'

'Well tell us how to do it differently,' says longtime South Carolina senator

Michael Hernandez  | 05.12.2023 - Update : 06.12.2023
US Senator Lindsey Graham downplays Gaza deaths: 'What's too many?' United States Senator Lindsey Graham attends a hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, United States on December 5, 2023. ( Celal Gunes - Anadolu Agency )


US Sen. Lindsey Graham has sought to downplay the soaring death toll in the besieged Gaza Strip as Israel presses its offensive on the coastal enclave with the stated aim of eliminating Hamas.

Graham scoffed during a CNN interview Sunday when asked if he believed too many civilians have been killed in Gaza. "Well tell us how to do it differently," he said.

He compared Israel's war to the allied effort against the Nazis during World War II

"What is too many people dying in World War II after Pearl Harbor? Did the American public worry about how many people were dying to destroy Tokyo or Berlin?" he said. "I know this is not the same, but it is similar."

More than 16,200 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its offensive following Hamas's Oct. 7 cross-border attack. The death toll includes 7,112 children and 4,885 women, according to the Gaza-based government. More than 43,600 people have been injured.

The Israeli death toll in the Hamas attack stands at over 1,200, according to official figures.

Israel resumed its military offensive Friday on the Gaza Strip after a weeklong humanitarian pause with Hamas ended due to the parties being unable to agree on terms that would have allowed it to remain in place.

Graham was responding to comments from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin over the weekend in which he cautioned Israel to mitigate further civilian casualties and said not doing so risks a “strategic defeat” in Gaza.

"You can only win in urban warfare by protecting civilians," Austin said at the at the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday.

"In this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat. So I have repeatedly made clear to Israel’s leaders that protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is both a moral responsibility and a strategic imperative," he added.

In response, Graham said, "I don't know how to do this, cause Hamas is integrated into the apartments, the schools and the hospitals. They have tunnels all over the place."

"The reason so many Palestinians are dying, I think, is cause Hamas wants them to die. So, if you've got ideas about lessening civilian casualties, let me know, I'll tell Israel, or you tell them directly. But the idea of Hamas still standing when this is over would be the ultimate strategic failure," he said.

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