Department Press Briefing – May 9, 2024


QUESTION: Really, four days in a row?

MR MILLER: Four days in a row. I’m sorry. I —

QUESTION: Four days in a row you —

MR MILLER: As I was – as I was walking out here I was remembering our exchange about this yesterday and thinking, oh, I’m going to get it, I’m going to catch it.

QUESTION: There’s nothing going on in the world. It’s all very quiet. Everything is fine and calm.

MR MILLER: I – again, my lack of opening remarks does not indicate lack of anything to say. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Right. Okay. So can you explain to us what the – what the practical impact, at least for the State Department, is of the President’s comments last night about arms shipments to – arms transfers to Israel and whether or not this plays into the NSM report that I guess is not coming today, and maybe tomorrow?

And then with respect to the larger question, so what the President made clear is that we have concerns about a potential military operation in Rafah. I don’t think that’s any secret. We’ve been making those concerns known publicly and we have made those concerns quite clear to the Government of Israel. And as the President noted, there are certain types of military assistance that we will not make available to Israel for use in a campaign in Rafah.

QUESTION: Okay. But I was under the impression that you guys didn’t speak to hypotheticals.

MR MILLER: So we have made quite clear for some time our concerns about a Rafah operation, something the Israel Government has signaled is likely to be coming. And so, yes, we have been engaged with them on that.

QUESTION: Well, I get it, but isn’t it “if?” Isn’t there a big “if” in here?

MR MILLER: Certainly that would be our hope. We don’t want to see an operation go forward, and we are making that clear.

QUESTION: Well, I know. But every time you’re asked any question that’s got the word “if” in it or it’s not something that has already happened, you refuse to answer. And now, all of a sudden —

MR MILLER: I wouldn’t say every time. Wouldn’t say every time.

MR MILLER: Look, this – I – so just to be – I know we should be serious about this.

QUESTION: I am not trying to be making light of it.

QUESTION: I just – but I just – you’re – you guys have made or the President has made a policy prescription, apparently, based on something that hasn’t happened yet.

MR MILLER: He – because we have been in close conversation with the Government of Israel about this fact.

MR MILLER: There is a different than I – there is a very real difference, obviously, between coming to the briefing room and getting a question about something that might happen, and something that we’re engaged with a foreign government that they say they intend to do. And we treat those differently for quite obvious reasons.

QUESTION: Okay, so you’re saying you won’t tell us the full truth but you will – anyway. My point is —

MR MILLER: I’m saying it’s different when a reporter raises a hypothetical question —

MR MILLER: — versus a government saying, “This is what we intend to do, this is what our policy is going to be,” and we have to make determinations about our policy.

QUESTION: And is it your understanding that the President has decided that what Israel has done in Rafah so far is – crosses the red line?

MR MILLER: We have not yet seen an indication of a major military operation. That is something that we are watching closely, and the President made that clear in his comments.

QUESTION: And yet he already decided to halt the – or to suspend these – the shipments based on something that hasn’t happened?

MR MILLER: We have – we have paused one shipment —

MR MILLER: — and are reviewing others in the context of a potential operation. But again, we hope that there is no operation. That, I think, would be the best outcome for everyone involved.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Actually, can I —

MR MILLER: Go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: — follow up? Just what is your definition exactly of a major operation in Rafah? I mean, you have tanks there. You have bombings going on every day. They took control of the Rafah crossing. What is your definition of a major operation in this case?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to get into too much detail about that from here, but I would differentiate it from the types of operations that we have already seen from the beginning when it comes to Rafah. We have seen Israel execute strikes against Rafah. We have seen – when I mean strikes, I mean airstrikes. Going back to last October, it’s something that they have engaged in. The operation that we saw to take control of the Rafah crossing appeared to be a limited operation; it’s not a major invasion of a civilian area, neighborhoods packed with people, thousands and thousands of people.

So when we talk about a major operation, we’re talking about a campaign targeting these civilian areas that are densely packed with civilians, in many cases civilians who are refugees from their homes, sometimes refugees twice over who have moved once, twice, three times, and are now taking refuge in a place that is literally their last resort, where there’s nowhere else for them to go.

QUESTION: Matt, on the NSM report, can we get the latest ETA on when State will submit that?

MR MILLER: In the coming days.

MR MILLER: In the – it’s the very near future. I don’t have a date to affix on the calendar for you, but it will be very soon. I can assure you of that.

QUESTION: So is there a chance it might slip into early next week?

MR MILLER: I am not going to give any timetable at all other than to say the coming days, which is what I said yesterday. I can assure you it will not be long.

QUESTION: Okay. A couple of other things. In your answer to Matt, you said the report is going to be retrospective. Right?

MR MILLER: Correct. It’s looking at – it’s looking at past conduct.

QUESTION: Right. And he asked you, I think, if I got it right, how – whether there is going to be any practical impact on President’s comments on the report?

QUESTION: So – but the President’s comments last night also covered the past. He talked about – let me find the quote here. He talked about, “Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs.” So can you explain to us how his comments have no practical impact on the report?

MR MILLER: What I was taking Matt’s question to mean is Matt’s question was related to the decision that the President announced last night or that the President made public to not provide Israel certain military weapons for a Rafah campaign. That is a forward – that is a forward-looking decision. We have paused shipments.

Now, the report is a backwards-looking thing. Now, the report does – will obviously look at allegations of violations of international humanitarian law. That’s a different thing than what the President – I mean, it’s a – I’m speaking just to a determination going forward versus a backwards-looking report.

QUESTION: Okay, well, let me ask it in the way that I sort of was thinking about asking. It is a report that is assessing whether or not Israel’s assurances are credible on two things, and one of them is using U.S.-supplied weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law. And the President of the United States yesterday said, “Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs,” in reference to the 2,000-pound bombs. So can you explain again, like, how his comments – maybe that’s not a determination as a result of a legal process, but those are comments from the President of the United States. How does that not have any impact on the findings of the report?

MR MILLER: So I think you have to look at two separate things. One is the tragedy – the tragic loss of civilian life throughout this conflict, which we have spoken to many times, the President has spoken to, the Secretary has spoken to, other members of the administration have spoken to. And we have said that far too many people have died; that Israel needs to do more to minimize civilian harm; that the actions they have taken have not yielded sufficient results – all of those things we believe to be true, still believe to be true. That is different than a legal question of whether there have been violations of international humanitarian law. That’s a different question; it applies – it goes to not just questions of civilian life – or I’m sorry, loss of civilian life, but whether international humanitarian law was violated in the loss of that life. And those questions are something that we continue to look at and have not yet – not reached any determinations.

QUESTION: And how do you determine whether international humanitarian law is violated with those killings? Is your criteria intent?

MR MILLER: So there are all sorts of things when you look at – I’m obviously not a lawyer, but when you look at the standards that have been applied in every conflict around the world, it goes to questions of intent, it goes to questions of proportionality. There are other things you have to look at when making those determinations.

QUESTION: Okay. My final thing on this. How do you think – I’m just trying to wrap my head around this. In his comments, the President has also said in the other part of the sentence, and in “other ways in which they go after population centers.” Going after someone or something does imply, to me, intent. And also, the bombs in question are 2,000-pound bombs, and their impact when dropped in a population center are known. We know that Gaza is already very – it’s very densely populated, and there are people squeezed in a small place. So how can any country claim there was no intent if you’re dropping a 2,000 bomb on a population center?

MR MILLER: So this goes back to the very difficult problem that Israel has faced from the beginning, is that you have Hamas embedded in these population centers. So yes, the Israeli military very clearly is operating within population centers, because that’s where Hamas was; that’s where their military targets have been. And I will say as we have looked at this conflict from the beginning, obviously, we react to facts on the ground. So at the outset of this conflict, you saw Hamas that was well entrenched in civilian areas and was able to launch not just the attacks of October 7th, but dozens and dozens of rocket attacks. For a while, they were launching them every day for the first month of this conflict. And Israel, in the first stages of the conflict, was able to degrade Hamas’s ability to the fact that those attacks, while they still happen, are sporadic, they’re not – they’re not as frequent, and Hamas – the Hamas battalions in northern Gaza and central Gaza have largely been defeated and have been dismantled, though clearly there is still a Hamas population that exists in all of those areas.

What we have also seen over the course of this conflict is Israel take measures to try and reduce civilian harm, and we have seen the numbers come down. Just if you look at the – at the death toll from back in October, November, as Israel implemented additional measures, the civilian death toll did go down. But we haven’t seen it come down far enough. And so when you look at – you take all those facts and you overlay them with a campaign in Rafah where you have a denser civilian population than we – than Israel would have faced anywhere else, just because of the people that have fled there, and you look at their track record at previous points in the operation, it leads us to believe that there would be incredible civilian toll, and it’s something that we can’t support.

QUESTION: Okay. Truly final one, and I apologize to my colleagues. Can you tell us where we are on the hostage talks? And there are Israeli officials – I believe perhaps Prime Minister Netanyahu – saying the deal on the hostage talks collapsed because of the President’s decision and because the President signaled this decision. What would you say to that?

MR MILLER: So first of all, I’m not going to respond to anonymous officials – is that an on-the-record quote from someone? They’re not – I’m not going to respond to anonymous officials. But I would just say that is not at all our assessment of the hostage talks. We actually think that a Rafah operation would weaken Israel’s position, both in these talks and writ large. We’ve talked about this before, that a major military operation in Rafah would further weaken Israel’s standing in the world, would further create distance from its partners in the region who actually share Israel’s goal of seeing Hamas defeated and want to see Hamas replaced with a different governance structure in Gaza.

And then also, if you look – just look at Hamas’s track record, they have never cared about Palestinian civilian lives. If they did, they wouldn’t have launched these attacks in the first place, which they knew would produce a response; they wouldn’t hide behind civilians, and they would have agreed to a ceasefire long ago. So I just don’t think that that argument holds any water.

With respect to the talks itself – so we continue to engage with the Israeli Government on the amendments to the proposal that Hamas submitted earlier this week. There continues to be – we continue to work to try to finalize the text, try to get an agreement. And I will just say that any effort like this is incredibly difficult. This one has certainly been incredibly difficult, but we will continue to stay engaged to try to get a deal because we believe it’s in the interest of all relevant parties.

QUESTION: So just – it wasn’t an anonymous official; it was the prime minister of Israel that —

MR MILLER: So I hadn’t seen that on the record. That’s – I had seen anonymous quotes earlier. I think my comments stand.

MR MILLER: I did give a substantive response in any regard, so – you can apply to that.

QUESTION: Well, I – okay. Substantive – I don’t know by whose definition. But anyway, when you say the —

MR MILLER: Ouch, Matt. I thought I was pretty substantive. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, when you say that the death toll – when you said prior – the death toll will continue – or has fallen since October, it’s come down but not yet enough, whose death toll are you talking about here? Whose figures are you accepting?

MR MILLER: So we are looking at the figures that are released by the ministry of health, which we do have —

QUESTION: By the Gaza – by the —

MR MILLER: Yeah, which you know that we have —

QUESTION: — which is run by Hamas?

MR MILLER: Which you know that we —

QUESTION: And you have —

MR MILLER: Hold – let me just finish. We know that we do have – we don’t have any way of verifying those figures on our own —

QUESTION: Well, then how do you know —

MR MILLER: — but they are – they are the only figures that are available. And look, the UN relies on them, we look at them —

MR MILLER: We do think there are probably issues with the numbers, but they do capture a large death toll and a large civilian death toll.

QUESTION: But you’re fairly certain that, at least in terms of the trend, they’re accurate?

MR MILLER: It – it’s just – I won’t – I can’t say accurate with any degree of certainty, like I can’t give you a, what, percentage accuracy —

QUESTION: Well, then what – (laughter) —

MR MILLER: But – no, no, hold on. But if you look at —

QUESTION: With any degree of certainty? Like it could be zero percent?

MR MILLER: No, no, I can’t say if they’re – I can’t say if they’re off – no, hold – if they’re off by 10 percent, by 5, by 50 – I can’t say something like that. But just –

QUESTION: Well, I mean, they might be off by 50 percent. Who knows?

MR MILLER: But stipulate whatever they’re off by, they have come down. And so they have come down over time – the daily number has come down over time when you look at where they were last October or November to where they are today.

QUESTION: All right. Last thing really briefly, just on this whole “a hypothetical” thing – because when Humeyra started her question, it was about my question to you. And it is a hypothetical, because you have the President making a determination on something that hasn’t happened yet, right?

MR MILLER: He is making United States policy based on conversations with the Government of Israel, where they tell us what they plan to do.

QUESTION: Well, let me put it in a very flip way. Like should I be bringing an umbrella home with me when I leave work today?

MR MILLER: I have not looked at the forecast. I can’t quite answer that.

QUESTION: Right, so that’s a hypothetical, so you don’t know, right?

MR MILLER: I don’t have control over the forecast. The Government of Israel —

MR MILLER: Hold on. The Government of Israel has control of what it’s going to do, and so when they tell us that they intend to do something, we make our policy in reaction to that.

QUESTION: All right. Okay.

QUESTION: Just a point of clarification on that very front, because Admiral Kirby said this morning that the Israelis have been saying their Rafah operation is limited, precise, and of a short duration. That’s something that you’re going to monitor. So are they – have they told you that they are going to undertake a big operation in Rafah, and that’s the reason for this policy shift?

MR MILLER: They have made quite clear they intend to conduct an operation. The operation they have conducted so far has been limited. They have talked, I think quite openly, about conducting a major military operation in Rafah. We are opposed to that, but we’ll see what happens. We have made quite clear we don’t want to see it happen.

We continue – and I should say we do continue to engage with them about other options that they can pursue. We have presented a full range of other policy choices that they can make that we think would achieve the goal of dismantling Hamas and choking off the Hamas battalions that remain in Rafah without further endangering civilians there and without causing this mass population displacement with no place for them to go. And so they may end up taking that option, but right now we will wait and see what happens.

QUESTION: Have you had any indication in conversations since this policy shift was announced that they are considering a different tactic?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to talk about our private conversations with them, but you can look at their public remarks and draw conclusions from that.

QUESTION: Okay. The original reason, going back to April 4th, that both the President and the Secretary have said that the U.S. would shift its policy was because Israel needed to boost the amount of humanitarian aid getting into Gaza. That picture looks about as bleak as it has ever been with Rafah being closed, Kerem Shalom being open but no – nothing going in. So is this suspension meant to also address the humanitarian effect, or are there other potential consequences that the administration is considering on the humanitarian front?

MR MILLER: So I don’t want to get into previewing any other potential policy options. I will say, first of all, you’re right – we have been very clear that the level of humanitarian assistance needed to come up and it needed to stay up, and it is not at the level it needs to be this week. That said, Kerem Shalom is open today and some trucks have moved through Kerem Shalom, so we are – have had a bit of an increase from where we were yesterday. I don’t have the number but I – just before I came out here – told that some trucks moved through.

Some trucks also move through Erez, so there are trucks that have gotten in. Not enough – clearly, not enough, not at the level that they should be, and so that’s why we’ll continue to push, continue to work with humanitarian partners to try and get them back up as well as to get Rafah open. That will continue to be a priority for us.

QUESTION: But are there any additional – because that was April 4th, so that was a month ago, a little over a month ago. So are there any additional consequences at this stage being considered for – specifically for the humanitarian —

MR MILLER: I am not going to preview specific steps, but we have always made clear, when it comes to humanitarian assistance and the need to have it increased and sustained, that we will make our policy determinations based on the facts on the ground. And that’s the case.

QUESTION: Okay. And one follow-up on Humeyra’s question about the hostage talks. How can you say with such confidence that the policy shift the U.S. has just announced didn’t meaningfully affect the trajectory of those talks, either by undercutting the Israelis at the negotiating table or emboldening Hamas at the negotiating table?

MR MILLER: So it is just not our assessment, based on actually being in the middle of these talks and seeing how it’s happening and what Hamas is actually demanding and what their incentive structure actually is. That’s just not how we see it. But also, again, to my point, the idea that – we just have never seen Hamas as having any interest in the – in civilians and civilian life in Rafah. So the idea that a Rafah invasion that would kill civilians is something that they lose sleep over just isn’t backed up by the facts, isn’t backed up by their track record the past seven months, when they have put civilians in harm’s way time and time again.

QUESTION: If a full-scale Rafah operation goes forward, is it safe to assume that it eliminates the prospects of a ceasefire and hostage deal altogether?

MR MILLER: We will continue to work for a ceasefire that brings the hostages home no matter what it takes. That will continue to be the goal that we will try – that we will work for.

QUESTION: Just one question on the NSM delay. Is there any reason that you can provide to us for the delay?

MR MILLER: That we just continue to work to finalize it.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m curious about President Biden saying that those 2,000-pound bombs were used to kill civilians, and now the United States won’t allow those bombs to be used or doesn’t want those bombs to be used. But we know that all of Gaza is so intensely populated, so is there a differentiating factor in terms of how many civilians lives you’ll allow to be killed with those bombs?

MR MILLER: No. First of all, we have always made clear that we don’t want to see any civilian loss of life. And we have consistently pressed the Israeli Government to take additional steps to minimize the loss of civilian life. But the assessments that we make are informed by what happens on the ground, and we are in a very different place today than we were last October. That’s what I made clear a minute ago in response to – I think it was to Humeyra’s question – where you have seen Hamas significantly degraded. You have seen their ability to launch the kind of attacks that they did on October 7th significantly degraded, if not completely eliminated.

They couldn’t launch an attack of that scale today. Their weapons production factories underground have been eliminated. Their – most of their battalion leadership in the north and in central Gaza has been eliminated. So Israel has achieved a great number of its military objectives. So that’s one thing that is different now versus then.

But the other thing that’s different now versus then is that we have watched the experience of those few months, and even when Israel has taken additional steps to minimize civilian harm, we’ve still seen results that were – we’ve still seen results where far too many civilians were dying. So we talked about this on some of the trips, where – there was one in November where the Secretary went and pressed Israel to take additional civilian harm measures. They did, they announced some of those, we talked about them publicly, and we still saw an unacceptable loss of civilian life.

So when you look at all of those factors, both where the battlefield – the battle versus Hamas stands today and the track record over the last few months, it leads us to believe that the loss of civilian life in Rafah, where you have a situation unlike anywhere else, both because of the concentration of people and because there’s nowhere left to go because all of these people have come down to Rafah and there’s nowhere for them to go now, it leads us to believe that the results would be disastrous from a civilian harm perspective.

QUESTION: Okay. And then NSC’s John Kirby said earlier today that Biden doesn’t want certain categories of American weapons used in particular operation in a particular place. Can you just clarify for us: Is this review of the future shipments of U.S. weaponry based on what those weapons are, or is it just based on the possibility of delaying or halting all U.S. weapons to Israel?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to get ahead of what the President said last night. We are reviewing – we have paused one shipment; we are reviewing others. But as the President made clear, we will always be committed to Israel’s defense. He talked about continuing to provide them defensive weapons. We will always be committed to Israel’s security. We will always be committed to helping Israel defend itself against Hamas, Hizballah, the threat from Iran, the threat from other terrorist groups and malign actors.

But when we look at a potential operation in Rafah, the President made clear that we are not going to provide them certain weapons that they could use in such an operation.

QUESTION: And then just last question. Kirby also said that Biden was forth – was as forthright in his conversations with Netanyahu about the possibility to pause weapons shipments as he was in the conversation publicly on CNN yesterday. Was the Secretary also as crystal clear in his private conversations as President Biden was publicly yesterday?

MR MILLER: Yes. I don’t – we have been quite clear with the Government of Israel some – for some time that we are opposed to a major Rafah operation. And the Secretary in his conversations has made that quite clear and made quite clear the potential implications, as has – as the President did.

QUESTION: He’s made clear which shipments might be paused?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to get – I’m not going to get into details, but you can be fully assured that the Government of Israel understood our policy.

QUESTION: Sorry. Did he make that warning in last week’s trip?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to get into details. As I said, there is no doubt that they understood what our policy was should they launch a Rafah operation, or what our policy would be, I should say.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. And before I ask about Rafah, I want to bring your attention to two days from today, May 11, will mark the second anniversary since an Israeli sniper killed our colleague Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist. And I want to ask you: Are you satisfied that everything that could have been done to bring those responsible, to hold them accountable has been done, and do you consider that case to be closed?

MR MILLER: That death continues to be a tragedy – one that was investigated by the Israeli Government, one that we investigated, and I don’t have anything further to add to what we’ve said – what we’ve said in the past.

QUESTION: So the case is closed?

MR MILLER: I just don’t have anything further to say on what we said many times from this podium.

MR MILLER: Every one of those deaths is an absolute tragedy, Said.

QUESTION: Right, right. But I mean, it is obvious that the Israelis are not heeding the President’s call, your call, to sort of hold back and so on. And the one thought or what we heard is that once they raise the Israeli flag on the Rafah crossing that maybe things will not go south from there, but they are. Right?

MR MILLER: So I don’t know where you heard that, Said. Every death is a tragedy. We have made clear we want to see them take additional steps to reduce civilian harm, but that doesn’t change the fact that just as a factual matter we haven’t seen a full-scale major military operation. Again, what we’re talking about is – like the kind of operation you saw in Khan Younis, like the kind of operation you saw in Gaza City. Just as a factual matter, that has not yet begun.

QUESTION: By the way, you said that Hamas is hiding among the civilian population. It was not Hamas that drove the people south. It was actually the Israelis. They told them to go and hunker in Rafah, and now —

MR MILLER: So, Said, you’re getting to my exact point, which is it was appropriate to evacuate people when there was – hold on – when there was some place for them to go, right?

MR MILLER: When there was Rafah, which was if not completely safe, safer than Gaza City, safer than Khan Younis, and someplace for them to go. That’s not true anymore. There are not sufficient – there’s not sufficient infrastructure in Khan Younis or elsewhere in Gaza for the people that moved to Rafah to go somewhere else. That is why we are so opposed to a military operation there.

QUESTION: Yeah, which takes me to my next question. I mean, if the Israelis, as you said, have already achieved their goals, and if there is no place for these people to go anywhere, why can’t the United States say, no invasion of Rafah, this operation must end now, full stop? Because obviously this is a wall, or dammed, or whatever it is.

MR MILLER: I think we have said no major invasion of – Said, hold on. You were just listening to the initial part of this briefing. But that said —

MR MILLER: Hold on, hold up. There are still Hamas fighters there. We have never said that Israel shouldn’t be able to do anything to take on the Hamas battalions that are there. We – there are things that we support. We have made clear in private conversations with them alternative paths for taking out and degrading and choking off those Hamas battalions. That continues to be our position. And it continues to be our position that Hamas could end all of this right now if they would – if those battalions would lay down their arms, if Sinwar would come out of the tunnels and if they would stop fighting. That’s another way that you could end all this.

QUESTION: And lastly on the aid, it seems that there was another attack by Israeli settlers on aid trucks a couple days ago. Are you aware of that report, and is the United States doing anything about that?

MR MILLER: I am aware of that report. In fact, we – if you looked at the statement we put out – I think it was day before yesterday – the Secretary talked with the foreign minister of Jordan about that attack and made clear that the Israeli Government needs to do everything possible to prevent those attacks and to hold people accountable. It’s our understanding that the Government of Israel arrested six people in response to those attacks. That was after they had arrested three people in response to the previous attack.

That is clearly the right thing to do, but they need to do more to prevent these attacks from happening in the first place. These are attacks on aid convoys delivering humanitarian assistance to civilians. They have nothing to do with this – with the conflict with Hamas. They should not be impeded, delayed, obstructed in any way.

QUESTION: Well, they have nothing to do with it except that it wouldn’t be needed as desperately —

MR MILLER: You know what I mean. What I mean —

QUESTION: — as it is if it wasn’t —

MR MILLER: You know what I mean is if your goal is to deprive Hamas of something, stopping these convoys for civilians does nothing to achieve that goal.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks. Just wanted to clarify something you said at the top. I think I heard you say there are certain types of military systems that we will not make available to Israel for use in a Rafah campaign. Does the President’s statement preclude delivering those weapons shipments or analogous ones to Israel for use in other areas during this timeframe?

MR MILLER: I am just not going to get beyond what the President said last night at this point. We’ve made clear what our policy is. We will engage with the Government of Israel about this question and others, but as I said at the top, while we are opposed to the – I’m just going to speak about this generally – while we’re opposed to a Rafah – major Rafah military operation, we do still support Israel’s right to defend itself against other threats. That has not changed; that will not change. The President’s commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad.

And I should have said this earlier, so I’ll make the point now – we actually think – one of the – we actually do believe that a Rafah campaign actually – in addition to all the harm it would cause to the Palestinian people, actually weakens Israel’s security, doesn’t make it stronger. It’s one of the other reasons we’re opposed to the campaign.

QUESTION: So and – and this just as a practical matter, do you assess that Israel requires the weapons in these shipments to proceed with the – with the operation?

MR MILLER: I am not – I just am not going to get into the details of how they would conduct an operation at all.

QUESTION: Okay. So, well then, on Hamas’s incentive structure, granted that – granting your point that they are not concerned in these negotiations about civilian casualties, you have said before – you even alluded just now – there is Hamas – there are military targets in Rafah. Does Hamas in these negotiations feel an incentive to release hostages in order to preserve that military infrastructure?

MR MILLER: We think the only thing the Hamas leadership cares about is protecting themselves, not the —

QUESTION: Yeah fine – all the Hamas – all the Hamas assets that —

MR MILLER: Is themselves, so I’m going – I’m kind of limited in what I can say here, but ultimately, when you look at the things that are on the table in the hostage deal, the point of a hostage – this deal, the things that Hamas gets out of it, are things that would benefit the civilian population of Gaza. Those aren’t things that they have shown they have a huge interest in advancing.

QUESTION: Right. And I’m just trying to think about how – obviously, this is a big issue that has a lot of really important components, but I’m just trying to zoom in on how it affects the hostage negotiations. I’ve talked – spent a fair amount of time this week interviewing the families of Israeli Americans. They’re – I think every one of them was very complimentary of how the administration and this building has been supportive of them, but I can’t help but wonder, as we watch what Hamas says – and so much of this negotiation seems to hinge on the sticking point of a ceasefire, of an end to the military campaign – if – do you assess that the President coming out up front and saying that there – they will – that the U.S. would not provide weapons in this context – does that not undermine Israel’s leverage in a negotiation?

Or do you just think that the military issue here is not – and I mean, I heard what you said earlier about how you think this would play out, but however self-serving Hamas is, does not the – do you just not think the threat of military losses on that file are relevant to the negotiations?

MR MILLER: No. It just hasn’t been our assessment that that is how the negotiations have played out at all.

QUESTION: Matt, so I want to go back to the talks and following up on that question. There was some reportings that the talks are now on pause because the Israelis brings a new demand of excluding Rafah from any ceasefire – agreed ceasefire in the – in Gaza Strip. Can you comment on that? Can you confirm or deny, or is this will be something acceptable for you, to exclude areas from ceasefire?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to get into the kind of picayune details of leaked reports, but largely speaking – broadly speaking – the ceasefire negotiations have been about a ceasefire for all of Gaza, not isolating any one particular area.

QUESTION: Not exclusions?

MR MILLER: No seclusion – they have been a ceasefire for all of Gaza.

QUESTION: And two days ago you were positive that a deal is possible and bridging the gap is still possible in the negotiations. Is it still your assessment?

MR MILLER: It remains our assessment that it’s possible. This has always been difficult, though. It’s been difficult from the beginning, and when you get to the end of these types of negotiations, it – it can – you’ve heard the Secretary say this before. Oftentimes the last issues are the hardest ones to reach. There were other periods where we thought we might be close to a deal. All I can say is that we think there’s space for a deal still and we’re going to continue to stay engaged with our partners in the region to try to push for one.

QUESTION: Thank you. Switching the topic?

QUESTION: Yeah. Two questions on Iraq. Under Secretary Uzra Zeya was in Baghdad yesterday and she was in Erbil today, and she met with the different officials. I want to know if there is any connection between her visit to Baghdad and the recent law that was passed by Iraqi parliament, anti-LGBTQ. And overall, how does the U.S. view the human rights and democracy in both Iraq and Erbil?

QUESTION: And secondly, in her meetings with the KRG officials, what we saw from the KRG statement, and also her meeting with the president of Kurdistan, they touched about the situation in Sinjar, the current situation in Sinjar, and also the agreement of Sinjar. How do you see the current situation in Sinjar and the agreement of Sinjar that was agreed in 2022 – in 2020, sorry, but it hasn’t been applied (inaudible)?

MR MILLER: Let me take that back and get you a full answer.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. Are you worried that – I mean, this is – the weapons has kind of been your trump card. Are you worried that by using this card now you’ve lost your leverage and your ability to influence Israel, particularly on the humanitarian front?

That said, we will continue to give Israel our best advice about what they should and should not do, as we have from the beginning. We will continue to have – (cell phone rings). That’s loud, Kylie. (Laughter.) Will have very direct at times, I’m sure, conversations about both how they operate their military campaigns and the provision of humanitarian assistance. I don’t expect that to change in any way.

QUESTION: Those channels remain just as open today after the President’s interview on CNN as they did (inaudible)?

MR MILLER: We have continued to have conversations with the Israeli Government today, I can assure you of that.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Moving to Europe.

QUESTION: Happy Europe Day. The EU approved a plan to use some of the funding generated by profits from Russian – frozen Russian assets to buy weapons for Ukraine. Are you on the same page with them now that REPO Act is the law of the land?

QUESTION: On the supplemental, do you feel any urgency in terms of obligating the funding that you have available? The DOD already announced 7 billion immediately, but you have 2 billion available from State to meet the urgent needs in Ukraine (inaudible) the funding —

MR MILLER: What was the question about it?

MR MILLER: What was the question about it?

QUESTION: The State Department has —

MR MILLER: When? Was the question when we’re going to —

QUESTION: To meet – to meet the urgent needs.

QUESTION: All right. So —

MR MILLER: If the question is when. I didn’t – I didn’t hear the first part of the question, but stay tuned.

QUESTION: On Georgia, I know we discussed that yesterday as well, but an awful lot happened since yesterday. We have seen graphic pictures of them beating up the protesters. Some young protesters are being – are being beaten up in and outside of their apartments. Where are you standing? I know that you made it clear that you stand with the people of Georgia. Is there any obvious example you can give us to prove that’s the case?

QUESTION: Clearly they ignored every warning from this building. Is it time for the Secretary to step in and pick up the call, call them and say enough is enough?

MR MILLER: I always appreciate the very prescriptive policy options you have to offer us in this briefing, but we will take – (laughter) – we will —

QUESTION: It’s the general sentiment.

MR MILLER: What’s that?

QUESTION: That’s the sentiment in Georgia. People feel —

MR MILLER: No, I understand. But we have made clear what our policy is and we will continue to make that clear, and I’m not going to preview any actions that we are going to – going to take from this podium.

MR MILLER: Let me – let me just – let me go – just go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m afraid I may have just gotten my answer with “stay tuned,” but now that the battle in Congress is over for aid and American support, what is going to be the main focus? And if Ukrainian manpower is now a concern, what, if anything, can the U.S. do to help in that regard?

QUESTION: Matt, question one. Senior UNRWA official Scott Anderson told Politico the other day that IDF units are already on the ground in Rafah killing dozens of people there, including kids. He also said one of the units is the same that killed seven World Central Kitchen workers, including an American, of course. So he is saying the IDF is already killing people, to Said’s point, kind of in a way that questions this line between major and minor operations. And one of these units is one that ostensibly killed an American. So how is the U.S. letting an Israeli unit that killed an American now continue to kill Palestinians? Like, is that not a red line?

MR MILLER: So I’m just not able to verify that report; and since I’m unable to verify that report, I’m not able to comment on any implications of it.

QUESTION: But conceivably, I mean, look (inaudible).

MR MILLER: The red line I – bottom line, I cannot – I mean, I can’t verify that to be true, so I can’t talk about any —

MR MILLER: — possible implications for something I don’t know to be true.

QUESTION: But just to follow up on that, what is the latest on the unit that did kill the World Central Kitchen workers?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any updates to offer on that.

QUESTION: Okay. And then secondly, it’s been 101 days now since Hind Rajab, her family members, the medics sent to save her were killed. So first question related to that: Is there an update on the investigation into that attack?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any – one. I’m happy to go back and get you the latest.

QUESTION: All right, okay, okay. So she’s one of 14,000 kids killed, Israeli forces have killed. Those World Central Kitchen workers, of course there’s a hundred more. President Biden admits Israel has killed civilians with U.S. weapons. We have the delay of the memo as to whether or not the U.S. determines whether Israel has violated international law.

With all of this, I understand there’s been a pause in one shipment of weapons. You have said other shipments are under review. But how did the U.S. feel comfortable sending Israel 17 billion if we can’t get answers to any of this, and how can it justify sending any more weapons at this point?

The other thing that’s true is that we are committed to Israel’s defense. Israel is a democracy in the Middle East that is a longtime ally of the United States with whom we share many values, that faces a number of threats from its neighbors, it faces a number of threats from terrorist groups, and we are not going to abandon Israel in the face of those threats, and that includes spending every dime that is contained in the supplemental for Israel’s defense. I would also add that there is money in that supplemental for humanitarian relief efforts for the Palestinian people, and we intend to spend every dime of that money as well.

QUESTION: And I know you’ve said still Hamas remains there. But as we’ve discussed before many times in this room, there is the possibility not just of Hamas sustaining for many more months but that this might turn more people to sort of join Hamas after being bombarded. So, like, to what end does an operation remain just committed to, like, removing Hamas from, like, threatening Israel, given that there’s also the concern of hostages?

QUESTION: Like, four have been killed, three have been saved in military operations.

MR MILLER: I’m just saying I feel like you have been listening and internalizing the Secretary’s speeches, because what the Secretary has made clear is that there has to be a political path forward.

MR MILLER: That there can’t be only a military —

MR MILLER: Hold on – just be a military operation. There has to be a military operation that is followed by a political path forward that meets the legitimate political aspirations of the Palestinian people, or you will have a continuation of this endless cycle of violence. And that is why we have engaged in diplomacy in the region to try to create that political path forward.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Three quick questions, if I may. Yesterday Russia accused the United States of meddling Indian election and also stated that the U.S. has not yet provided any reliable evidence regarding the murder plot against a U.S. citizen named Pannun by Indian nationals. Could you comment on this?

With respect to the second question, there is a publicly-returned indictment that contains alleged facts. They’re allegations until they’re proven before a jury that anyone can go and read. I won’t speak to them here because, of course, it’s an ongoing legal matter. And I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Two Bangladeshi citizens were shot dead by Indian security forces at the Bangladesh-India border, and this continues a concerning trend of civilian killing at the border which appears to violation – violate international law. Could the U.S., given its strong partnership with India in the region, request that India assess these killings and ensure accountability for any violations?

MR MILLER: So we are aware of the reports about this incident. We understand the Indian and Bangladeshi border security agencies are in communication with one another, and I would defer to them to speak to their respective investigations into the circumstances of the shooting.

QUESTION: One more, thank you. Following the sham election in Bangladesh in January 2006, the ongoing local government election which is being boycotted by the main opposition party BNP is experiencing issues of intimidation, voter rigging, harassment, attack on journalists, and low voter turnout. Could you provide an update on the U.S. visa policy as announced last year for those responsible for undermining democratic election in Bangladesh?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any updates to announce. We obviously made that policy public. At times we make designations under that policy public; at times we keep them private. I don’t have anything to announce today.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. I take your point a few moments ago about the word “leverage,” that you don’t love that word. But President Biden’s announcement about the arms shipment I think would be seen by most people as the most assertive mode for trying to rein Israel in. With approximately 35,000 people dead, approximately 80 percent of the population of Gaza displaced, and the UN saying there’s a fully blown famine in the north, what do you say to critics who say that such a move should have come earlier?

And I do just want to say, again, every time I get this question about the number of civilians that died in this conflict, it gets posed to me as a question about the Government of Israel. And remember, it is Hamas that hides behind civilians, it’s Hamas that has built tunnels under hospitals and schools and mosques and at times hides in those facilities and puts civilians at harm’s way. So I get there are very fair questions about how Israel has conducted this war, and I stand here and answer them. The Israeli Government answers them too. But it is also true that a lot of the harm to civilians is because of the way Hamas decided to embed itself in the civilian population in the first place. That in no way changes the burden on the Government of Israel, as we’ve made clear.

QUESTION: But respectfully, Matt, I mean, they’re dead because the armed forces of Israel killed them.

MR MILLER: It – going after Hamas fighters who are hiding behind civilians. That has been the – the has been true since day one; it remains true today.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on his question, it makes it – your answer makes it sound like it’s an okay number for 40,000 —

MR MILLER: That’s – that is not –

QUESTION: — people to be killed.

MR MILLER: That is not – hold on. That is not at all a fair reading of what I said. I made quite clear that – we have made quite clear for – since the – for months and months and months that far too many Palestinians have been killed in this conflict. And we have engaged with the Government of Israel to bring down the level of civilian death and convince them to take additional steps to reduce civilian harm. When we look at the operation in Rafah, it is a landscape like no other both because of the densely – the way people are densely packed into such a small area – people from Gaza City; people from Khan Younis – and, unlike with respect to an operation in Gaza City or Khan Younis, there’s nowhere for them to evacuate to, and that is a critical difference when it comes to a Rafah operation that didn’t exist for previous ones.

QUESTION: So the Israeli army says that it has the munitions it needs for the Rafah operation and for any planned operations. Does that mean – do you think that that is their way of saying we will go into Rafah?

MR MILLER: I will let them speak for themselves on those questions.

QUESTION: And just more about the aid. You say that every dime in that U.S. aid to Gaza will be spent. How do you – how do you plan to spend it in Gaza given that settlers are stopping convoys from going into Gaza?

MR MILLER: Delaying – delaying –


MR MILLER: Hold – delaying not stopping.

QUESTION: And today UNRWA was set on fire by settlers as well.

MR MILLER: So first of all, they delayed those convoys; they did not stop them. Those convoys eventually got through. And those attacks on those convoys are just one route into Gaza. That’s a specific route coming from Jordan being delivered into Erez. There are other routes. There’s deliveries from Ashdod that are coming straight into Erez, as well as hopefully we’ll get Kerem Shalom back open and running at a significant level as it has been for several weeks. And, of course, we want to get Rafah open. That’s what we’ve been working on. It’s what we’ll continue —

QUESTION: And can I ask about Sudan?

MR MILLER: Let me – that’s – just because that was three and we’ve been going a while, let me go —

MR MILLER: Guita, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I want to go back to the NSM report. Okay, the timeline, it starts in 2023 – January 2023, correct? I was wondering when is the cutoff. When does the report stop that review?

MR MILLER: I am going to defer that answer – I know this will be unsatisfying – until you can see a public piece of that in the coming days. All of the questions about what’s contained in the NSM will be answered.

MR MILLER: Maybe not all, but a number of them, so —

QUESTION: All right. I have a couple more, please.

QUESTION: Have humanitarian organizations had any input in this report? And if so, how was it decided to be incorporated in the report?

MR MILLER: So the report is written by people here in the State Department as well with input from the Defense Department. It’s not written by outside organizations. Of course, it can’t be. It is a report by the United States Government, so they don’t have input in the sense that they are actually looking at the report, editing, contributing components to it. But that said, we interact with humanitarian organizations all the time. We take their feedback. We take their input. And it is reflected in all of the work that we do.

QUESTION: Okay. Two more now, moving away from Israel.

QUESTION: Earlier when you talked about defending – still defending Israel’s security, you mentioned a couple of threats to Israel, including Iran. Now, I was wondering if you mean Iran the country or the rulers – the people in power in Iran.

QUESTION: It seems like Iran is feeling – feeling a little threatened, because today another senior advisor of Ali Khamenei, the leader, said that if Iran’s existence is threatened, they will review their military and nuclear doctrine. I was wondering how concerned are you by these – this threat – this comment about revision of their nuclear doctrine is – how concerning is it?

MR MILLER: So those comments are irresponsible, but as the President and Secretary have made clear, the United States will ensure one way or another that Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. We continue to use a variety of weapon – or sorry – a variety of tools in pursuit of that goal and all options remain on the table. Ultimately, we believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve a sustainable, effective solution, but given their escalation across the board – including their failure to cooperate with the IAEA – we are far from – far away from anything like that right now.

And then we’ll do one more and then wrap up. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matthew. The President said he put the hold on munitions and bombs to Israel over not wanting them used in a full-scale invasion of Rafah. Why has the U.S. put a hold given that a full-scale invasion is not underway and instead it’s a limited operation by Israel?

MR MILLER: I think I may – I have answered that any number of times already in this briefing. So go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. And will other shipments —

MR MILLER: No offense. It’s just kind of – (laughter) —

QUESTION: Will other shipments be put on hold? Is that something under consideration?

MR MILLER: We are reviewing other shipments. I don’t have any announcements to make.

QUESTION: Finally, is the NSM-20 report binding in terms of providing weapons to Israel?

MR MILLER: The – I’m not going to speak to the NSM report until it is final to make a conclusion. That said, you can look at the national security memo itself and see what factors go into our determinations and what potential outcomes are – not – and I will leave it at that.

With that, we’ll wrap for today. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:18 p.m.)

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