During a White House briefing held this Wednesday, John Kirby, the National Security Council’s Strategic Communications Coordinator, engaged in a terse exchange with an Arab journalist over the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The journalist posed questions about Israel’s military actions in the south and whether they constituted collective punishment, leading to further civilian harm. Kirby responded firmly, emphasizing the United States’ stance against any civilian casualties and collateral damage to civilian infrastructure.
The dialogue grew tense when the reporter challenged Kirby with the proposition of Israel being labeled a “terrorist state” due to its actions, likening it to Hamas, which the reporter described as a terrorist group.
Kirby reiterated the U.S.’s desire to prevent civilian harm and highlighted Hamas’s deliberate attack on October 7th that resulted in numerous casualties, pointing out that it was their expressed intent to do so, including taking hostages.
Attempting to conclude the briefing, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre interjected, but Kirby continued, stating that while civilian losses in the conflict are tragic, the Israeli Defense Forces do not strategize to cause civilian harm. Instead, he accused Hamas of using civilian structures as cover, thus endangering non-combatants in Gaza.
When the reporter attempted to steer the conversation back to the ethics of killing civilians, Kirby concluded his remarks, indicating an end to the discussion on that topic, with Jean-Pierre affirming the move to proceed with the briefing.