A premature Palestinian baby in an incubator

A premature Palestinian baby, recently evacuated from the Gaza Strip, lies in an incubator at a hospital in al-Aris in the North Sinai Governorate of Egypt on November 22, 2023.

A premature Palestinian baby, recently evacuated from the Gaza Strip, lies in an incubator at a hospital in al-Aris in the North Sinai Governorate of Egypt on November 22, 2023. Twenty-nine premature babies arrived in Egypt on November 20, after they were evacuated from Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital which has become a focal point of Israel's war with Hamas. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) (Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)

US Official Won't Call Forced Abandonment of Gaza Newborns a War Crime

"What kind of weasel-mouth defense of Israel is that?" asked one observer, who quipped that "...deliberately killing babies is a war crime in Ukraine, but for Israel it is self-defense."

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller demurred Wednesday when asked if footage of decomposing newborn babies who died in a Gaza hospital—where staff were forced to flee an imminent Israeli invasion—showed a war crime.

"I would say that is a tragedy," Miller said during his daily press conference in response to a question from Al-Quds reporter Said Arikat about the infants' remains found last week in the evacuated neonatal intensive care unit at al-Nassr Children's Hospital in northern Gaza.

"It's a tragedy for those babies. It's a tragedy for their family members. It's a tragedy for the Palestinian people and it is a tragedy for the world," Miller continued. "And this is why we have made clear that far too many Palestinians have been killed in this conflict, and that, of course, includes far too many Palestinian children and of course, Palestinian babies."

"And it is why we have taken every measure we could to speak loudly and clearly to the government of Israel that it needs to do everything it can to minimize civilian harm," he added.

However, critics condemn the Biden administration for refusing to press Israel for a permanent cease-fire, and for seeking another $14.3 billion in U.S. military aid for Israel, which already gets nearly $4 billion in annual armed assistance from Washington.

Workers at al-Nassr Children's Hospital toldThe Washington Post that, with Israeli tanks surrounding the facility, oxygen supplies cut off by airstrikes, and warnings to flee for their lives, they were forced to leave behind four prematurely born babies—children of some of the 1.8 million Palestinians forcibly displaced in Gaza.

"I felt like I was leaving my own children behind," said one nurse. "If we had the ability to take them, we would have."

Two weeks later, local journalist Mohammed Balousha went to al-Nassr during the weeklong pause in the bombing. He witnessed the "terrible and horrific scene" of the mold-covered, worm-eaten bodies of the four babies, who he said had also been mauled by stray dogs.

Around the same time that al-Nassr staff were forced to abandon the infants, at least five premature babies died at al-Shifa Hospital after Israeli bombardment knocked out electricity needed to power its incubators. Earlier, Israeli forces also bombed the cancer ward of the al-Rantisi Pediatric Hospital.

According to Gaza officials, at least 7,112 children are among the more than 16,200 Palestinians killed in Gaza since Israel began what many critics around the world have called a "genocidal" assault on the besieged strip after Hamas-led attacks left 1,200 Israelis and others dead in southern Israel on October 7.

"Each day we see more dead children and new depths of suffering for the innocent people enduring this hell," Norwegian Refugee Council secretary-general Jan Egeland said Wednesday, demanding an immediate cease-fire. "The situation in Gaza is a total failure of our shared humanity. The killing must stop."

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