Top White House official refuses to say if Israel is following international law

Deputy national security adviser Jon Finer would not say during an interview on “Meet the Press” on Sunday whether the White House is confident that Israel is following international law after Israeli forces invaded Gaza’s main hospital last week.

Hundreds of patients and staff, including dozens of premature babies, were evacuated from Gaza’s main hospital, Al-Shifa, after Israel raided the hospital, which suffers from a lack of fuel to power its incubators. More than 1.6 million people have been displaced in Gaza since Hamas launched its brutal attack on Israel on Oct. 7, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said. The World Health Organization has described the hospital as a “death zone.”

During Finer’s interview on “Meet the Press,” host Kristen Welker pointed to the Qatari prime minister’s comments saying Israel’s actions at Al-Shifa were a “crime” as Israeli forces continue to operate at the hospital. The IDF has said that Hamas was operating a command center under the hospital, citing images of weapons and a tunnel. NBC News has not independently verified the claim, and hospital staff have denied it.

“Does the White House stand by Israel’s assessment that Hamas is headquartered underneath the hospital? And are you confident that Israel is following international law?” Welker asked.

Finer said U.S. intelligence suggests that Hamas has used Al-Shifa “in an unconscionable way as a command and control facility for the planning of terrorist attacks and the execution of terrorist attacks and continues to do so.”

“That does not, in our view, mean that Israel should conduct airstrikes on the hospital or ground assaults on the hospital. We’ve been equally clear about that,” he said. “But Hamas has put these people in severe jeopardy by the way in which it’s conducting this war.”

“So this is a microcosm of the real challenge associated with this entire conflict, and we’ve laid out our position. It’s the same position I’ve just articulated,” he added.

Welker again asked Finer: “And are you confident Israel is following international law?”

“We are confident that it is our position that it needs to when we have seen issues that are raised,” he said. “Based on incidents on the ground, we raised them privately and directly with the government of Israel.”

Finer added, “We’re not going in real time to play judge and jury on this question,” before Welker pressed him again.

“You said Israel needs to follow international law. Are you confident they are following international law?” Welker asked.

“What I can say is it is not our position, certainly my position as a policymaker, to play real-time judge and jury on the question of any particular incident,” Finer said.

“When we see things that concern us, we raise them. We have done that during the course of this conflict. We will continue to do that. And again, just to restate, it is our position that all countries including Israel, including the United States, need to adhere to laws of armed conflict,” he added.

President Joe Biden’s approval rating has sunk to its lowest level of his presidency as strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of his handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll.


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