Reporters hound State Dept. spox on viral video of white flag waving Palestinian shot dead

A State Department spokesman was under pressure to explain a viral video that purportedly showed a civilian in Gaza who was shot dead.

A 51-year-old clothes seller, identified as Ramzi Abu Sahloul, died after reportedly being shot while waving a white flag. On Wednesday, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vendant Patel was flooded with questions about the incident during a press briefing.

“A children’s clothes seller from Gaza, standing unarmed among a group of Palestinian men holding a white flag, was shot dead minutes after speaking to an ITV cameraman,” the U.K.’s Independent reported.

“A report aired by the British public service broadcaster showed the events unfolding as the group of five Palestinian men tried to reach family members stranded in a house inside an active combat zone,” the outlet added. “The Israeli army had instructed the group to evacuate Khan Younis, which has been encircled by IDF forces, but Sahloul’s mother and brother were unable to get out from a house nearby.”

**WARNING: Graphic Content**

“The Israelis came to us and told us to evacuate but they didn’t let my brother out. We want to go and try to get them, God willing,” Sahloul told John Irvine, the foreign correspondent for ITV News, moments before he was fatally wounded.

The IDF said the video was “clearly edited” and, in a statement to ITV said the “despicable accusations can only be deemed as an extension of Hamas’ propaganda effort.”

Robert Moore of ITV News, Humeyra Pamuk of Reuters, and Matt Lee of the Associated Press were among those who flooded Patel with questions about the incident during Wednesday’s State Department press briefing.

“I’m not going to comment on the specifics around that, given I’m not aware of the full circumstances on the ground,” he told Patel who had asked if the action would constitute a “war crime.”

“And as we’ve said before, this is not an American operation,” Patel continued, imploring reporters to not interrupt him. “If you allow me to answer, I don’t interrupt you, and I ask you to not do the same.”

“As a general matter, though, we have not parsed our words about the moral and strategic imperative that the government of Israel and the Israeli security forces have to take every effort possible to minimize civilian casualties and minimize impact on civilians. As it relates to the footage that your organization has shared, again, I’m just going to refrain from commenting on specific operations, as we do not have full circumstances of what on the ground from here. This isn’t an American, operation. I’m not on the ground there to speak to the full parameters of the situation,” Patel continued.

“Any civilian death, any civilian death is heartbreaking. And any civilian life lost is one too many. And we have made that clear, with the Israelis. And we’ll continue to do so,” he added.

“Beyond that comment about it being heartbreaking, which is a platitude we often hear, would you urge – given that your you support broadly support the IDF operations in the Gaza Strip – would you support an Israeli investigation of what happened in that video given that they’re waving a white flag that represented no threat?” Moore pressed.

“That is for the IDF to undertake and determine, based on the circumstances of that situation,” Patel replied, emphasizing that Israeli partners have been told, “to take every possible measure to avoid civilian harm during an operation and investigate credible allegations of law or war violations when they arise.”

When Patel indicated the footage was new and there were no “specifics of our diplomatic conversations” available yet, the AP’s Matt Lee then pressed him about the “footage that arose last week and the week before and the week before and the week before and the week before where there have been, you know, if not similar, awfully close instances?”

When Patel responded that he was “not going to speak to private diplomatic conversations,” Lee asked, “Alright, well, have you ever gotten an answer from the Israelis to those questions?”

” I’m not going to speak to the privacy of certain diplomatic conversations, Matt. But we have been clear that there is a moral and strategic imperative to take as many steps as possible to minimize civilian casualties,” the spokesman said.

“That’s fine. That’s fine that you say that. But then when you are asked specific questions like this relating to specific footage – and this is not the first time that this happened – you’ve been asked repeatedly about this, and then you come back and say, well, we’ve raised questions with you,” Lee said.

The heated session continued with Patel being peppered by questions and reporters clearly frustrated with the vague responses.

 

Frieda Powers

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