US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called Hamas’ assault on Israel “the equivalent of ten 9/11s.” With Israel already responding by leveling large swathes of Gaza, Blinken promised Washington’s support for “as long as America exists.”
“If you look at [the attack] in proportion to the size of Israel’s population, this is the equivalent of ten 9/11s,” Blinken said in Tel Aviv on Thursday. “That’s how big and how devastating the attack has been.”
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Some 1,300 Israelis have been killed and more than 3,000 wounded since Hamas militants launched their attack on Saturday.
More than 1,400 Palestinians – including 447 children – have been killed and around 5,000 more wounded in the same period, with these figures continuing to rise as Israeli warplanes bomb the densely populated enclave of Gaza. Blinken did not mention these casualties in his speech or attempt to measure Palestinian losses in 9/11s.
A total of 2,996 people were killed on September 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners. Two planes hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, one hit the Pentagon in Washington DC, and the fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania following a passenger revolt.
Then-US President George W. Bush invoked 9/11 to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, although the latter had no connection to the attacks. Bush also responded by dramatically expanding the US’ domestic surveillance operations and signing into law the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which remains on US law books and has been used by subsequent administrations to launch military operations in 22 countries.
Following Hamas’ attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to “crush” the Palestinian militants, while Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared on Thursday that the Israeli military “will wipe them off the face of the Earth.”
The overwhelming majority of Gaza’s residents are civilians, however, and with the strip’s borders sealed and an Israeli-imposed siege preventing food, water, electricity, and fuel from entering, they have borne the brunt of the Palestinian casualties.
In an earlier speech alongside Netanyahu, Blinken said that he implored the Israeli leader “to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.”
However, he added that “no country can or would tolerate the slaughter of its citizens,” and that “Israel has the right, indeed the obligation, to defend itself and to ensure that this never happens again.”