ISRAEL + HAMAS

Hamas, not Israel to blame for deaths in Gaza, Mitt Romney says while visiting Tel Aviv

Oct 16, 2023, 11:00 AM | Updated: Nov 30, 2023, 5:40 pm

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks Sunday from Israel where he is visiting with a bipartisan group of...

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks Sunday from Israel where he is visiting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers. He said Hamas is to blame for casualties in Gaza. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks Sunday from Israel where he is visiting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers. He said Hamas is to blame for casualties in Gaza. (Screenshot)

(Screenshot)

SALT LAKE CITY — Hamas is to blame for casualties amid the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Sen. Mitt Romney said Sunday while visiting Israel with a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Only hours after Romney and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, were forced to take shelter from Hamas rockets, the senators spoke at a press conference in Tel Aviv, during which the Utah Republican spoke of the “heart-wrenching” experience of visiting a nation still grappling with the deadliest terror attack in its history.

“To see the people of Israel subjected to such brutality, such a heinous act by individuals whose purpose is unimaginable, my heart breaks not just for our friends and allies, but for people who I love and hold dear,” Romney said.

As the Israeli military prepares for an expected ground assault on Gaza — from where Hamas militants launched the deadly surprise attacks that killed some 1,300 Israelis just over a week ago — Romney warned of grisly images to come as Palestinian civilians are likely to be killed and injured in the conflict.

“I hope we recognize that those individuals have been killed because of Hamas, not because of Israel,” Romney said. “In many respects most directly, Hamas is holding their own population — the Palestinian population — as human shields. … And therefore, when Israel takes action to try and go after Hamas and take out its leadership, there will be individuals who are civilians and innocent that will be killed, and they will parade that as if this is some horror being perpetrated by Israel.

“Do not forget the lives that you are going to see lost on TV … Israeli lives and Palestinian lives, are all the result of Hamas.”

Speaking of the growing isolationist sentiment in the United States, Romney said it’s in the nation’s best interest to support its allies around the globe by helping them defend against authoritarian and anti-democratic aggressors.

“There’s a war being waged, a war being waged against free countries, against democracies, against freedom, and it’s being waged by Hamas and Russia and China (and) Iran,” he said. “That war would only continue and spread further, and ultimately involve more and more of humanity. So, we’re involved in the world because it’s in America’s interest. It’s in Israel’s interest. It’s in all of our allies’ interests. It’s in the world’s interest.

“This is obviously a period of great sadness and meeting today with the families of hostages has been something I will never forget. And can only imagine, only imagine, the horror in their lives. My heart reaches to them. My prayers join with yours to see those hostages returned to their loved ones.”

Romney on Tuesday decried the “horrific, inhumane and depraved terrorist acts perpetrated by Hamas” after learning that a Utahn was among the more than 260 civilians killed by Hamas militants at a music festival on Oct. 7.

“Today, news of the loss of one of our own from Utah further tears at our collective heart,” Romney said. “I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Lotan Abir — may he rest in peace.”

The American delegation was scheduled to meet with top Israeli officials to discuss an aid package to potentially include military, economic and humanitarian support, according to the New York Times. Israel has received broad support from American congressional leaders, and a group of Democratic lawmakers urged President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to push Israel to open a humanitarian corridor for Palestinians fleeing Gaza.

Hours before the press conference, Schumer posted a photo of himself and several others, including Romney, taking shelter from a barrage of rockets fired by Hamas.

“While in Tel Aviv today, our delegation was rushed to a shelter to wait our rockets sent by Hamas,” Schumer said in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “It shows you what Israelis have to go through. We must provide Israel with the support required to defend itself.”

Schumer is the highest-ranking Jewish official in U.S. history and the first Jewish majority leader in the Senate.

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Hamas, not Israel to blame for deaths in Gaza, Mitt Romney says while visiting Tel Aviv