The Israeli military is doing all it can to get civilians out of harm’s way amid its war in Gaza, but its attempts to minimise casualties are “not successful,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli leader’s comments came after he was asked by US television channel CBS News on Thursday whether the killing of thousands of Palestinians in retaliation for the October 7 attack by Hamas would fuel hatred in a new generation.
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“Any civilian death is a tragedy. And we shouldn’t have any because we’re doing everything we can to get the civilians out of harm’s way, while Hamas is doing everything to keep them in harm’s way,” Netanyahu said.
“So, we send leaflets, [we] call them on their cell phones, and we say: ‘leave’. And many have left,” Netanyahu said.
The same day, Israel’s air force dropped leaflets in parts of south Gaza telling people to evacuate for their own safety.
It was not clear where they were supposed to evacuate to as Israel continues to wage war across the besieged territory.
Weeks earlier, Israel also used leaflet drops in northern Gaza to warn civilians to move to the south.
Hundreds of thousands have done so, in a mass displacement that many Palestinians fear could become permanent.
Israel has said the goal of its military campaign is to destroy Hamas.
“The other thing that I can say is that we’ll try to finish that job with minimal civilian casualties. That’s what we’re trying to do: minimal civilian casualties. But unfortunately, we’re not successful,” the Israeli prime minister said.
Netanyahu then said he wanted to draw a parallel with something related to Germany, but he was interrupted by the CBS interviewer, who asked him a question about Gaza’s post-war security.
Palestinian civilians have borne the brunt of Israel’s weeks-long military campaign, which has come in response to the attack by Hamas that Israel says killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
Hamas also took about 240 people of different nationalities as captives, according to Israel.
On Friday, the Israeli military said it had retrieved the body of one of the captives, a female soldier, from a building near Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital which has become the main focus of the Israeli assault this week.
The soldier’s death was confirmed on Tuesday after Hamas issued a video of her alive, followed by images of what the group said was her body after she was killed in an Israeli air strike.
The Israeli military claimed to have found a tunnel shaft used by Hamas at al-Shifa Hospital. A video, which could not immediately be verified, showed a deep hole in the ground, surrounded by rubble, wood, and sand.
It appeared the area had been excavated; a bulldozer appeared in the background.
The army said its troops also found a vehicle in the hospital containing a large number of weapons.
Hamas said in a statement on Thursday evening that claims by the Pentagon and US State Department that the group uses al-Shifa for military purposes “is a repetition of a blatantly false narrative, demonstrated by the weak and ridiculous performances of the occupation army spokesman”.
The United States is confident in an assessment from its own intelligence agencies on Hamas activities in al-Shifa Hospital and will neither share nor elaborate on it, White House spokesperson John Kirby said on Thursday.
Protected by law
Human Rights Watch said hospitals have special protections under international humanitarian law.
“Hospitals only lose those protections if it can be shown that harmful acts have been carried out from the premises,” the watchdog’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau said.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, on his first visit to Israel since the October 7 Hamas attack, called on Israel to do more to protect civilians in Gaza.
“I understand your rage but let me ask you not to be consumed by rage,” Borrell said.
Gaza health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations say at least 11,500 people have been confirmed killed in an Israeli bombardment and ground invasion – more than 4,700 of them children.
Two-thirds of the Gaza Strip’s population of 2.3 million has been made homeless by the war.