PM: Israel seeks ‘minimal civilian casualties, but unfortunately we’re not successful’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is interviewed by CBS News on November 16, 2023. (Screenshot: CBS News; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is interviewed by CBS News on November 16, 2023. (Screenshot: CBS News; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

In an interview with CBS News, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is asked about the prospects of a deal for Hamas to release some of the captives it seized in the October 7 massacres in exchange for a several-day pause to the ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip.

“We are closer than before we began the ground action,” he says. “The ground action has put pressure on Hamas to achieve a ceasefire. We’ll have a temporary ceasefire if we can get our hostages. I don’t think it serves that purpose for me to elaborate further on that.”

Netanyahu stresses the return of the some 240 hostages taken by Palestinian terrorists in last month’s devastating attack is one of Israel’s main goals in the war, along with destroying Hamas and ensuring “that terrorist threat never rises again from Gaza, and that Gaza has a different future.”

The premier declines to say if he’d agree to let Palestinian security prisoners go in return for the Israeli hostages’ freedom.

“There are certain things we are holding confidential until we have something to tell,” he says.

Netanyahu says Israel has “concrete evidence” on the use of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City for military purposes, alleging leaders of the terror group and “terrorist minions” fled the medical facility as Israeli forces neared.

“We are doing this very gingerly because we’re trying to do the moral thing, the right thing, to deprive Hamas of having this safe zone in a hospital, but at the same time to neutralize its use as a command center for terror. And so far we’ve achieved that,” he says.

The prime minister stresses Israeli efforts to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, while saying Hamas “doesn’t give a hoot” about Palestinians.

“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,” he says.

Netanyahu also says Israel wants “overall military responsibility to prevent the re-emergence of terror” in Gaza but not to reoccupy the coastal enclave.

Additionally, he is asked if Israeli settlers in the West Bank who engage in violence against Palestinians will be held accountable.

“We hold anyone taking the law into their own hands or committing vigilante violence — that is out, we cannot accept that,” he asserts.

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