Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the country’s latest attacks on Gaza in a series of Sunday interviews on U.S. news networks, saying that Israel was “sad for every civilian casualty” and claimed Hamas was deliberately trying to put Palestinians in the crossfire.
“All civilian casualties are unintended by us, but intended by Hamas. They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can, because somebody said they use—it’s gruesome,” Netanyahu said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead the better.”
Netanyahu said that Hamas had fired 2,000 rockets in recent days, which he said forced Israeli’s hand. “I mean, we didn’t seek this escalation,” he said on CNN. “Hamas forced it on us. They started rocketing our cities, steadily increasing the fire.”
Israel expanded its offensive to a ground operation in Gaza last week. The deadly attacks escalated this weekend after Hamas militants used tunnels to infiltrate Israel, killing two Israeli soldiers. According to Palestinian officials, 460 Palestinians have died so far in Gaza since the beginning of the conflict. On Sunday alone, 110 Palestinians were killed and 450 wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. The Israeli army said that 13 Israeli soldiers died in the fighting.
When asked about the possibility of reoccupying Gaza, Netanyahu responded: “Well, I support taking whatever action is necessary to stop this insane situation.”Secretary of State John Kerry defended Israel’s response and also pointed a finger at Hamas. “What they need to do is stop rocketing,” he said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “They’ve been offered a ceasefire, and they’ve refused to take the ceasefire.”
Kerry also seemed to express some frustration with Israeli’s operations when caught on an open mic before his appearance on Fox News. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” he said on the phone with an aide. “We’ve got to get over there,” he added. “I think, John, we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around.”
“When you said it’s ‘a hell of a pinpoint operation,’ are you upset that the Israelis are going too far and in fact do you intend to go back to the Middle East tonight?” Fox News’s Chris Wallace asked Kerry.
Kerry returned to his unapologetic defense of Israel. “I think it’s very, very difficult in these situations, obviously very difficult, Chris. You’ve had people who’ve come out of tunnels. You have a right to go in and take out those tunnels. We completely support that,” Kerry said. “And we support Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets that are continuing to come in.”
President Obama spoke with Netanyahu by phone on Sunday morning.
“The President discussed Israel’s ongoing military operation, reiterated the United States’ condemnation of attacks by Hamas against Israel, and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself,” according the White House Press office. “The President also raised serious concern about the growing number of casualties, including increasing Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and the loss of Israeli soldiers.”
Obama said Kerry would soon travel to Cairo “to seek an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement,” the White House added.