December 11, 2023

Former President Barack Obama on Monday spoke out about the Israel-Hamas conflict, warning that Israel’s strikes against Gaza could backfire.

On October 7, Hamas led the deadliest Palestinian militant attack on Israel in history, with Israel subsequently launching its heaviest-ever airstrikes on Gaza in response. As of Monday, over 1,400 people in Israel have died, the Associated Press reported, in addition to more than 5,000 Palestinians in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is “at war” and has cut off food, fuel, electricity, and medicine supplies to Gaza. Israel has called up 360,000 army reservists as it prepares for a likely ground offensive into the territory, which has an estimated population of around 2.3 million.

In a Medium post published on Monday, Obama spoke out about the ongoing situation in Gaza. To start, he reaffirmed his past comments supporting Israel’s right to defend itself from the likes of Hamas and expressed support for President Joe Biden‘s response to the situation.

obama cautions israel military response
Above, a photo of former President Barack Obama during a visit to Israel. Obama on Monday cautioned Israel against a response to Hamas that inflicted suffering on innocent Gaza civilians, which he warned would “backfire.”
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

“As I stated in an earlier post, Israel has a right to defend its citizens against such wanton violence, and I fully support President Biden’s call for the United States to support our long-time ally in going after Hamas, dismantling its military capabilities, and facilitating the safe return of hundreds of hostages to their families,” Obama wrote.

Despite that, the former president added that “how Israel prosecutes this fight against Hamas matters,” and urged that the country abide by international “laws that seek to avoid, to every extent possible, the death or suffering of civilian populations,” lest its efforts “backfire.”

“The world is watching closely as events in the region unfold, and any Israeli military strategy that ignores the human costs could ultimately backfire,” Obama added. “Already, thousands of Palestinians have been killed in the bombing of Gaza, many of them children. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes.”

He continued: “The Israeli government’s decision to cut off food, water, and electricity to a captive civilian population threatens not only to worsen a growing humanitarian crisis; it could further harden Palestinian attitudes for generations, erode global support for Israel, play into the hands of Israel’s enemies, and undermine long term efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region.”

Obama also conceded that the task would be difficult, given that “many Israelis have demanded that their government do whatever it takes to root out Hamas,” and given Hamas’s operations are “deeply embedded within Gaza…and its leadership seems to intentionally hide among civilians, thereby endangering the very people they claim to represent.”

Newsweek reached out to Israeli officials via email for comment.