US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday urged Israel to protect civilians as it battles Hamas in Gaza, saying that shielding noncombatants is necessary for victory in the urban fight against the Palestinian group.
Fighting between Israel and Hamas resumed the day before after a week-long truce between the two sides collapsed, with both sides blaming the other for the breakdown of the deal and the resumption of violence.
Austin told the Reagan National Defense Forum in California that he had "learned a thing or two about urban warfare" while fighting in Iraq and leading the campaign against ISIS, AFP reported.
"Like Hamas, ISIS was deeply embedded in urban areas. And the international coalition against ISIS worked hard to protect civilians and create humanitarian corridors, even during the toughest battles," Austin said.
"The lesson is not that you can win in urban warfare by protecting civilians. The lesson is that you can only win in urban warfare by protecting civilians," he said.
"In this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat."