WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Israel is doing all it can to get civilians out of harm’s way as it battles Hamas in Gaza, including dropping leaflets warning them to flee, but its attempts to minimize casualties were “not successful”, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.
Netanyahu was asked by U.S. television’s CBS News whether Israel’s killing of thousands of Palestinians as it retaliates for the Oct. 7 attack by Gaza’s ruling Hamas militants would fuel a new generation of hatred.
“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.
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.”
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 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 hostages, according to Israel.
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 have been made homeless by the war. On Thursday, Israel’s air force dropped leaflets in parts of south Gaza telling people to evacuate for their own safety.
Israel has also used leaflet drops in northern Gaza to warn civilians to move. Hundreds of thousands have done so, in a mass displacement that many Palestinians fear could become permanent.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; editing by Grant McCool)