Israel’s Netanyahu denies blame for civilian deaths in Gaza

In dual Sunday show appearances Israeli prime minister denies culpability for Gaza bloodshed

John Bowden
Washington DC
Sunday 12 November 2023 21:25 GMT
Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu says Gaza is 'surrounded'

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to outrage surrounding the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza on Sunday and asserted that Israel was blameless for such bloodshed.

Mr Netanyahu appeared on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday for an interview with Dana Bash, and was asked by Bash to respond to criticism of the Israeli military’s brutal siege of Gaza in response to a massive and deadly terrorist attack committed by Hamas militants last month.

The prime minister responded that “the blame should be placed squarely on Hamas” for deaths in Gaza. He went on to claim that the Israeli military’s shift to a ground-based invasion of the occupied Palestinian territory had actually “reduced” what would have been an even higher civilian death toll resulting from a bombing campaign, which he suggested was the only alternative.

“People are heeding our calls to leave the area, and defying Hamas’s attempts to keep them there,” said Mr Netanyahu.

His remarks come as international criticism of the Israeli military campaign is growing swiftly. Though the Biden administration and the United States remains vocally committed to supporting Israel, US officials have been more open in recent days in their own concerns about the scale of the Israeli offensive. The French government broke with the ranks of other western countries this past week and called for a full ceasefire.

In the US and many other nations massive demonstrations have taken place in solidarity with Palestinian civilians trapped in areas beset by airstrikes and other fighting. Last weekend, hundreds of thousands marched on Freedom Plaza in Washington DC for the “March to Free Palestine”, and an even larger crowd was witnessed on Saturday in London.

During a second interview with Kristin Welker on NBC’s Meet the Press, the Israeli prime minister wrongly described those demonstrations and protesters as “protesting for Hamas.” Using German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s definition of Hamas as “the new Nazis”, Mr Netanyahu suggested that the millions of protesters who have called for a ceasefire would have supported the Nazis during World War II.

Joe Biden, the US president, told reporters this week that there was no chance for a ceasefire until Hamas returned Israeli hostages and those from other nationalities — including the US — thought to be held by the militant group. The Guardian reported on Thursday that Mr Netanyahu had rejected a deal for the return of some hostages held by Hamas in exchange for a ceasefire.

Some international human rights groups and medical organisations have joined the criticism of the Israeli government in particular in recent days as allegations of attacks on medical centres and hospitals in Gaza have risen sharply.

On Sunday, the medical group Doctors Without Borders called for a ceasefire and denounced a “death warrant” it said the Israeli military had metaphorically signed for civilians sheltering in the al-Shifa hospital after claiming that civilians attempting to flee the complex had been shot at by Israeli troops.

“Over the past 24 hours, hospitals in Gaza have been under relentless bombardment. Al-Shifa hospital complex, the biggest health facility where MSF staff are still working, has been hit several times, including the maternity and outpatient departments, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. The hostilities around the hospital have not stopped. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams and hundreds of patients are still inside Al-Shifa hospital. MSF urgently reiterates its calls to stop the attacks against hospitals, for an immediate ceasefire and for the protection of medical facilities, medical staff and patients,” said the group in a statement.

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