MODERATOR: Greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Dubai Regional Media Hub. I would like to welcome our participants joining us from the Middle East and around the world for this on-the-record briefing with U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues David Satterfield. During this call, Special Envoy Satterfield will discuss U.S. efforts to provide the maximum amount of humanitarian assistance as possible to the residents of Gaza.
After opening remarks, Special Envoy Satterfield will take questions from participating journalists. We are pleased to offer simultaneous interpretation for this briefing in Arabic. We request that everyone keep this in mind and speak slowly. To listen to the call in Arabic, select the Arabic audio channel at the bottom of your screen by clicking the globe icon.
Please keep in mind we are only able to take live questions in English during the call. We have received submitted questions in Arabic in advance and have incorporated these into the briefing. I’ll now turn it over to Special Envoy Satterfield for some opening remarks. Sir, the floor is yours.
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: Hala, thank you very much, and welcome to all of the journalists on this call. Our focus has been on moving humanitarian assistance to meet as much as we can under the present circumstances the needs of the Palestinian civilians in south and central Gaza on as sustained and sustainable basis as possible. I want to note here we started just two and a half, three weeks ago at zero. We have moved the level of assistance up now to around 100 trucks a day. We are looking at a higher level of assistance to move the proper – according to UN agencies – needed basic humanitarian assistance into south Gaza.
Three weeks ago, we had no fuel accessible to the UN implementers in the south. Fuel is now available from within Gaza for their use for desalination plants, for provision to hospitals in the south and center, and for the movements of the UN implementers themselves, and we are working to make certain that there will be further fuel available for the UN – UNRWA, the ICRC, World Food Program – as this moves ahead.
Now, we understand even 150 trucks a day just meets the bare minimum to provide basic survival humanitarian assistance. Much more is needed beyond that. There needs to be commercial goods restocking shelves, bakeries need to reopen with all that they need in terms of supplies, cooking gas for that purpose. And we’re working on that, but we had to make a start and the start has been significant, and we hope very much in the near future to be able to build and expand upon it.
We have also, of course, been focused on providing for the safe, secure exit of our nationals, of other countries’ nationals. That process has started as of November 1st. It has been interrupted by complexities dealing with other movements coming down out of north Gaza. I hope that the four to five-hour humanitarian pauses for safe passage north to south that has just been announced will allow facilitation of those kinds of moves – getting wounded civilians out, getting nationals out. But again, all that we are doing now is a beginning, and we understand that much more will need to be done and will be – need to be done promptly.
On the issue of the overall humanitarian situation, our government has worked closely at both political and military levels to impress the need to conduct the campaign in a manner which minimizes civilian casualties to the maximum extent possible, which allows clearly recognized deconflicted humanitarian sites to be spared from attack. But I have to say, for 15, for 16 years, Hamas has deliberately embedded itself in, around, and under many of those humanitarian sites. It increases the complexity of any campaign of this kind enormously. But how this is done matters greatly. We wish to see Israel able to achieve a goal which is not just its right but its responsibility: to end the threat which this terrorist group poses to Israelis, to end the threat that they have posed to the civilians of Gaza, for whose welfare they care not a whit. But how it is done makes all the difference in the world, and humanitarian assistance is a vital, vital requirement throughout. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Special Envoy. And the first question is a pre-submitted question and goes to Moaz Shraideh from Almahba Radio. And the question is: “Are there clear mechanisms in place to seriously protect the lives of civilians in Gaza? And how can humanitarian assistance be delivered to them?” Over to you, Special Envoy.
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: Thank you. We have worked very hard over these past three weeks to set up just those mechanisms. They are at their beginning and they must increase, but we do see the ability to, in the coming days, we hope, meet the minimum requirements of the population in the south with respect to basic humanitarian assistance via the UN implementers. We are working on increasing the ability to have clean potable water available as well. Two pipelines from Israel have been turned back on. The desalination plant and its satellite facilities in south and central Gaza are functioning because of our work to get fuel flows restored via UNRWA to those places.
More needs to be done, and I’m speaking of the south and the center, not of the north. The north remains a kinetic area, but the ability of those in the north to safely exit to the south and for wounded in an agreed manner to be moved from the north to Rafah for treatment, those are important steps as well.
MODERATOR: Thank you. And the next question from the live queue goes to Michel Ghandour from Al Hurra. Michel, please feel free to ask your question. You can unmute yourself. Michel, I’ve allowed you – there – to talk; you can go ahead and unmute and ask your question. Okay, it looks like Michel is not there with us, so I will go to the next question from the pre-submitted questions. And the question is from Dana —
QUESTION: Can you hear me now?
MODERATOR: Yes, we can hear you. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you for doing this. Mr. Ambassador, what is the future of the Palestinians who are moving from the north to the south of Gaza? And second, is there any regional consensus now regarding the day after?
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: Michel, the first question you posed – the future of Gazans is in Gaza and not any other place. We do not, as a matter of fundamental principle, support or wish to see displacement of Gaza’s population. Now, within Gaza itself, those now in the south must have every ability to return to the north when that is safe to do. We do not see any enduring displacement, even within Gaza, from north to south.
And your second question, the issue of the future, the day after – the President, the Secretary of State, the spokespersons for the NSC and for State Department have, I think, been very clear. We see a future in Gaza which is determined by Palestinians. We see absolutely a need to have a common addressal of West Bank and Gaza, no separation between the two. We believe that a two-state solution is the only ultimate guarantor of a peaceful future for Israel, as well as for the Palestinians.
Now, how you get to those goals is an issue which is going to have to be discussed over the time ahead. It of course depends very much on how this campaign ends, whether Hamas is eliminated as a threat, as a force able to dictate to the people of Gaza. The objective is not to have that happen. We’ve said publicly two things must not happen at the end of all of this: an Israeli occupation, or Hamas remaining in power. Whether there is an international, regional transition that moves towards the Palestinian role in Gaza as well as West Bank that we believe is essential, that all will have to be worked out.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. The next question goes to Dana Hama Gharib from The New Arab. And the question is: “Given the extensive casualties in Gaza, predominantly among women and children, due to Israel’s bombing campaign, how does the United States reconcile its supply of advanced weaponry to Israel with its stance on providing humanitarian aid to Gaza in light of its commitment to human rights?” Over to you, sir.
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: We have made clear we believe Israel has a responsibility to its own people to end the threat posed by Hamas. We are standing strongly with Israel as it works to achieve that goal. But we’ve been equally clear from the White House, from the department, from every individual who speaks for the U.S. Government, that how the campaign is conducted matters. And it must be conducted in a way that minimizes to the maximum extent possible civilian casualties.
We believe as well and have made clear the maximum degree of humanitarian assistance needs to be made available in as safe, as secure a fashion as can be done to as many people of Gaza as possible. These are difficult things to achieve given the nature of what Hamas has done in Gaza over the past 15 years. But they have to be dealt with together, the campaign done in a manner that minimizes civilian casualties and maximum provision of humanitarian assistance.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. And the next question goes to Bahira Amin from the live queue. Bahira, you’re free to ask your question. Please go ahead and unmute yourself.
QUESTION: Thank you. Can you hear me all right?
MODERATOR: Yes, please go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. So today there was a statement from the head of Gaza coordination and liaison at Israel’s defense ministry body that handles Palestinian civil affairs. He said that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. As the special envoy for humanitarian issues, can you comment on that? Is that the U.S.’s view as well?
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: I’m not going to comment on another government’s statement. What I will tell you is that we believe – the United States, our UN partners, the international community – that there is a critical and ongoing requirement to provide food, medicine, and water to the people of central and south Gaza. The need is real; the need must be met.
QUESTION: And the next question goes to Hussam Assal from Almamlaka TV. And the question is: “What is the intended duration of a short-term temporary humanitarian pause? Can you please elaborate on this?”
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: The only elaboration I can make is to say that the White House and the Israeli Government, as I understand, in the last 90 minutes or so have announced a four-to-five-hour daily pause to facilitate a safe or a safer corridor for movement from north Gaza to the south. Beyond that, I can’t comment. Obviously, what is needed when one speaks of a humanitarian pause is not just its duration in time, but the content of what can be done during the pause, how much humanitarian assistance can move, how much movement to places of greater safety can be affected during that duration. It’s both the time, but also what is doable during it.
MODERATOR: And the next question goes to the live queue – Susan Elgeneidy from Alahram. Suzy, please go ahead and ask your question. You can unmute yourself. There you go.
QUESTION: Yes. Do you hear me now?
MODERATOR: Yes, thank you. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. And my question is: What are the ideas on the table now for the arrangements that could be done in Gaza? After the end of what’s happening and the killing of the Palestinians, do you think about more Palestinian Authority being in Gaza more, or what is the ideas? It’s a bit vague. And Netanyahu – you mentioned that two-state solution is the answers, but Netanyahu always refuse the two-state solution. So is there any hope for the Palestinians to have their own state? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: I can speak to what the United States Government has articulated privately, as well as very publicly, as recent as Secretary Blinken’s remarks I believe less than 24 hours ago. We believe there must be a fundamental Palestinian role in deciding the future of the West Bank and Gaza, that there can be no siege of Gaza, there can be no separation of Gaza as a political matter from the future of the West Bank, and that a two-state solution – including Gaza and the West Bank – is the one certain way to address the needs, the genuine needs, of both Israelis and Palestinians.
That’s the goal. The mechanisms that take you there, the positions that will be necessary on the ground by the Palestinian Authority, all depend on how circumstances evolve. But we’re very clear on what the framework needs to be.
MODERATOR: And the next question goes to Abd Elraouf Arnaout from Al-Ayyam Daily newspaper. The question is: “In the current situation where Israel is requesting Palestinians to evacuate hospitals in the northern part of Gaza, what is the status of efforts to deploy hospital ships to the region? Is there an expectation that this deployment will occur in the near future? And are there any specific countries involved in this initiative?”
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: There are a number of international parties, states, that are in discussion with Israel on the issue of deployment of hospital ships. I believe the French Government has been very public about this. Those are questions which need to be addressed to the governments concerned or to the Government of Israel.
With respect to other arrangements to supplement medical care in the south, the United States, working with a variety of other international organizations – humanitarian organizations – and states, are working to see what can be done in terms of moving field hospitals into secure areas of the south to augment the ability of existing hospitals in the south to provide medical care.
MODERATOR: Thank you. And the next question from the live queue goes to François-Xavier Gemayel from Lebanon Files website. François, please unmute yourself; you’re free to ask your question.
QUESTION: Yes, good evening, everybody. Good evening, Mr. Satterfield. My question is: If war breaks out on the Lebanese-Israeli border and the United States attacks Hizballah, and the Lebanese army engages in the battle facing Israel, what will be the United States position on the Lebanese army, noting that it has always supported the Lebanese army whether in training, equipment, or moral support? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: You pose a complex of hypotheticals on top of hypotheticals, and like most officials, I am not going to comment on that. What I will say is this: The United States does not believe that the type of war or conflict that you just described in your question is inevitable. We do not see this as something which is necessarily going to happen. We have every belief that all parties concerned understand – and by all parties I refer to Hizballah and to the supreme leader and the regime in Tehran – understand the President’s very blunt message, which was, for those in the region contemplating a potential spread of this conflict, don’t, don’t, don’t.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. And the next question goes to Ahmed Sawan from Al Bawabah, and the question is: “How are you addressing the Israeli-imposed barriers regarding the entry procedures for humanitarian aid shipments from Egypt, such as the limitation on the number of trucks and the prohibition of specific materials, including fuel?”
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: There is no limitation on the number of trucks other than the capacity of the UN implementers, primarily UNRWA, to be able to move the cargos that cross Rafah to warehouses or to distribution points. Other than that – and that’s a very significant limiting factor – there are no limitations set by Israel.
With respect to fuel, UNRWA has been able to draw on fuel stocks that were in Gaza in fuel depots it has access to. It will need replenishment from outside Gaza of those stockpiles in the near future. We are working to ensure that that replenishment occurs in a secure and timely fashion.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. And the next question goes to Wladimir van Wilgenburg from Kurdistan 24. Wladimir, please go ahead and ask your question and unmute yourself.
QUESTION: My question is there have been more attacks by Iranian-backed groups, and until now the attacks are not stopping even though the U.S. carried out other airstrikes yesterday in Syria. What – how the U.S. can prevent these Iranian-backed groups from carrying out these attacks on U.S. bases? What do you think is the correct U.S. response to this?
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: I’m sorry; I am dealing with the humanitarian issues that stem from the Gaza campaign and the Hamas attack on Israel. The question you posed really needs to be addressed to other spokespeople and other officials.
MODERATOR: And the next question goes to Mahir Haneef from the Daily Tribune/News of Bahrain, and the question is: “With over 4,200 children casualties in Gaza since October 7th of this year, surpassing global conflict child fatalities annually since 2019, what measures is the U.S. willing to consider to address this grave humanitarian situation? Is there a possibility for the U.S. to facilitate an exodus for women and children from Gaza to the West Bank or other nations prepared to accept them?”
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: With respect to the first part of the question, one innocent life lost is far too many. Thousands lost is simply unacceptable. As I answered to a previous questioner, we are doing all that we can to counsel, to work with, to provide assistance and advice of many different forms to Israel, to its military, to try to minimize the level of civilian casualties. Secretary Blinken very eloquently spoke of the kick in the gut, the gut-wrenching image of children killed and wounded. It speaks to all of us in an indelible fashion.
This is a difficult campaign. Hamas has structed it to be a campaign that produces civilian causalities. But still every possible effort must be taken to minimize the damage, minimize the deaths and injuries, to all innocent civilians.
With respect to your second part of the question, we believe strongly – I’ll reiterate the point again – the future of Gazans lies in Gaza, not displacement to other countries. And I think that has to remain a fundamental point.
MODERATOR: The next question goes to the live queue, Samar El Kadi from Ici Beyrouth. Samar, please go ahead and unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Hi. Yes, can you hear me?
MODERATOR: Yes, we can.
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Great. Hello, Mr. Ambassador. I’m calling from Beirut, where you have been our ambassador for several years. I have a couple of questions. First, I mean, the humanitarian truce or pauses that the White House and Israel announced – what are they involving? I mean, is – are we going to see a prisoner/hostage exchange in the – I mean, during the process?
And knowing that you have – you know very well Lebanon and stake – and stakeholders in Lebanon, do you fear or do you suspect that Lebanon could be dragged into the conflict, in case it gets – it lasts longer, I mean, it takes – and it widens?
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: Yes, yes. I answered – I’ll answer it again. We do not believe that a conflict involving Lebanon and Israel is in any way inevitable. And so the speculation and the hypotheticals on the “what ifs” – the here and now reality is there is no indication on any side that there is an intent to precipitate a conflict or a war.
But it is essential – essential – that there be no provocative actions undertaken by Iran or Hizballah. The character of exchanges that Hizballah has launched across Israel’s northern border always raise the potential for miscalculation. They need to stop.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. And we’ll have one last question from the live queue. It goes to Mohamad Barakat from Asas website. Mohamad, please go ahead and unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Do you support Arabic troops – do U.S.A. – Arabic troops in Gaza? And what’s the position of Egypt and Jordan upon this idea?
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: We are focused right now on providing humanitarian assistance to and safe exit from Gaza for foreign nationals. The future of Gaza, including all manner of questions, including security responsibility, is a question for discussion in the time ahead. I am not able to comment on what options may or may not be feasible or what positions of particular governments may be. But I can say this: We do not believe that at the end of this conflict, this campaign, there should either be an Israeli occupation or there should be a continuation of Hamas control.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. I will now turn it over back to you for closing remarks. Thank you for all the questions. I’m sorry we were not able to get to all of them. The special envoy has to run off to another meeting, so I’ll turn the floor back over to you, sir, if you have any final remarks.
AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: My final remarks are similar to my opening ones. More must be done in terms of the provision on a sustained basis of the types of assistance that the Gazans need in order, first, to survive, to meet their basic need for food, water, and medicine; but beyond that, to be able to see the beginnings of the sorts of life which only the availability of commercial goods – not just humanitarian assistance – can provide.
We’re working on the humanitarian point first, we and our partners, but we do want to see this expand. It’s a struggle. It’s complex. It’s none of it easy. But it is what the United States is absolutely committed to see.
MODERATOR: And with that, that concludes today’s call. I would like to thank Special Envoy Satterfield for joining us and thank all of our colleagues from the media for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, you can contact the Dubai Regional Media Hub at DubaiMediaHub@state.gov. Thank you all for joining us for this important briefing today, and we wish you a lovely rest of your day.
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