Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas Tuesday of deliberately putting children in the line of fire amid an outcry over violence on the Gaza border in which dozens of Palestinians were killed during clashes with the Israeli army.
Netanyahu told US television that troops were left with no choice but to use lethal force during protests on Monday, and responsibility for the deaths lay entirely with the terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip.
“They [Hamas] are pushing civilians — women, children — into the line of fire with a view of getting casualties,” Netanyahu told the CBS network.
“We’ve tried to minimize casualties, they are trying to incur casualties in order to put pressure on Israel which is horrible,” he added. “These things are avoidable. If Hamas had not pushed them there, nothing would happen. Hamas holds responsibility for doing this and they’re deliberately doing it.”
A string of foreign governments have voiced alarm about the use of live fire against the protesters, with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing the Jewish state of “state terror.”
But Netanyahu said other countries would have done the same to prevent its borders being breached.
“I don’t know of any army that would do anything differently, if you had to protect your border against people who say ‘we are going to destroy you and we are going to flood into your country,'” he said.
“You try other means, you try all sort of means, you try non-lethal means and they don’t work so you are left with bad choices, it’s a bad deal. You go for below the knee and sometimes it doesn’t work unfortunately,” the prime minister added.
The US government has also placed the blame for the violence with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Speaking at the UN on Tuesday, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said Hamas would have been “pleased with the results from yesterday” when 60 Gazans were killed.
“The Hamas terrorist organization has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy,” she told an emergency meeting of the Security Council.
The IDF said Hamas and other terror groups had used the protests as cover to carry out attacks against Israel, including shooting at troops and trying to cross the border fence.
The Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups acknowledged Tuesday that 13 operatives from their organizations were among the fatalities Monday. Israel said at least 24 of the dead were members of terror groups.