The Israeli military is doing everything it can to keep civilians out of harm’s way during the Gaza war, but its attempts to minimize casualties have “failed,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
The Israeli leader’s comments came after the American television station CBS News asked him on Thursday whether the killing of thousands of Palestinians in retaliation for the October 7 Hamas attack would fuel hatred in a new generation.
“Every civilian death is a tragedy. And we shouldn’t have them because we are doing everything we can to save civilians from danger, while Hamas is doing everything to keep them in danger,” Netanyahu said.
“So we send leaflets, [we] call them on their cell phone and we’ll say, “get out.” And many left,” Netanyahu said.
On the same day, the Israeli Air Force dropped leaflets in parts of southern Gaza, urging people to evacuate for their own safety.
It was unclear where they were to evacuate as Israel continued to wage war in the besieged territory.
A few weeks earlier, Israel also dropped leaflets in the northern Gaza Strip to warn civilians against moving south.
Hundreds of thousands of people have done so in a mass displacement that many Palestinians fear may become permanent.
Israel has stated that the goal of its military campaign is to destroy Hamas.
“The other thing I can say is that we will try to complete this work with minimal civilian losses. That’s what we’re trying to do: minimal civilian casualties. But unfortunately we did not succeed,” said the Israeli prime minister.
Netanyahu then said he wanted to make a comparison with something related to Germany, but was interrupted by a CBS journalist who asked him a question about Gaza’s post-war security.
Palestinian civilians have borne the brunt of Israel’s weeks-long military campaign in response to the Hamas attack, which Israel says killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
According to Israel, Hamas also took approximately 240 people of various nationalities prisoner.
On Friday, the Israeli military said it had recovered the body of one of its captives, a soldier, from a building near Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital, which became the main target of an Israeli attack this week.
The soldier’s death was confirmed on Tuesday after Hamas released a video showing her alive and then photos showing what the group said was her body after she was killed in an Israeli airstrike.
The Israeli military claimed to have found a tunnel shaft used by Hamas at al-Shifa hospital. The footage, which could not immediately be verified, shows a deep hole in the ground surrounded by rubble, wood and sand.
The area appeared to have been dug up; a bulldozer appeared in the background.
The army said its soldiers also found a vehicle containing a large quantity of weapons at the hospital.
Hamas said in a statement Thursday evening that the Pentagon and U.S. State Department’s claims that the group is using Al-Shifa for military purposes “is a repetition of a blatantly false narrative evidenced by the weak and absurd performances of the occupation army’s spokesman.” .
The United States is confident in its own intelligence agencies’ assessment of Hamas activities at al-Shifa hospital and will not share or elaborate on it, White House spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday.
Protected by law
Human Rights Watch said the hospitals enjoy special protection under international humanitarian law.
“Hospitals only lose this protection if it can be shown that harmful activities have occurred on their premises,” said Louis Charbonneau, director of the UN watchdog.
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 please don’t be consumed by your rage,” Borrell said.
Health authorities in Gaza deemed credible by the United Nations say the Israeli bombing and ground invasion killed at least 11,500 people, including more than 4,700 children.
Two-thirds of the Gaza Strip’s population of 2.3 million have been made homeless by the war.