White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday that though the administration “raised specific concerns” about the reported killing of two Christian civilian women at Gaza’s only Catholic church, the White House is confident that the Israelis “are not making the slaughter, torture, and rape of civilians in Gaza a war aim.”
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said on Saturday that “around noon” on Dec. 16, a sniper of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) “murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family Parish in Gaza, where the majority of Christian families has taken refuge since the start of the war.”
Kirby said that the White House “raised that specific incident” with Israeli authorities and urged them to “be as careful, deliberate, surgical, and cautious as possible when it comes to minimizing civilian casualties.”
“The right number of civilian casualties is zero. We don’t want to see a single innocent person hurt or killed as a result of this conflict,” Kirby said, while adding that it is “happening that people are being killed, people are being wounded. We recognize that. But it’s a far cry from saying it’s a part of the war aims as it was for Putin, as it was for Hamas.”
The IDF has denied responsibility for the deaths, telling CNA in an emailed statement that “representatives of the church contacted the IDF regarding explosions that were heard near the church” but “no reports of ... civilians being injured or killed were raised.”
Vatican News reported on Dec. 16 that Samar Anton and her mother, Nahida Anton, were the two Christian women killed at Holy Family Parish.
Following his Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis sharply condemned the reported killings, calling the Israeli military’s actions “terrorism.”
Kirby has previously praised the IDF for its efforts to limit civilian casualties and facilitate humanitarian aid to Palestinians. In a Dec. 14 press briefing Kirby said the IDF has published online maps telling people in Gaza: “Here’s where you can go because it’s safe and where you shouldn’t go because we might be striking there.”
“That’s basically telegraphing your punches and there’s very few modern militaries in the world that would do that, I don’t know that we would do that,” Kirby said.
"There's very few modern militaries in the world that would do that. I don't know if we would do that."
🔴 WATCH: U.S. NSA John Kirby talks about the extraordinary steps that the IDF takes to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza — including giving advance notice of strikes. pic.twitter.com/zmVpEr5yGB
— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) December 14, 2023
“With respect to this church issue,” Kirby said on Monday: “We are deeply concerned about it; we have raised specific concerns about it with our Israeli counterparts, and we’ll continue to do so."
“But we haven’t seen any evidence that the Israelis are making it an aim of war and a tactical, operational necessity to go out and slaughter innocent people.”