Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again defended his country’s response to protests in Gaza and blamed the territory’s ruling Hamas party for the violence, according to excerpts from a CBS News interview on Tuesday.
“They’re pushing civilians – women, children – into the line of fire with a view of getting casualties. We try to minimize casualties. They’re trying to incur casualties in order to put pressure on Israel, which is horrible,” Netanyahu told CBS News, according to a transcript of the excerpt. The full interview is scheduled to air Tuesday evening.
Sixty Palestinians were killed on Monday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, including an eight-month-old baby who died from tear gas that her family said she inhaled at a protest camp near the border. More than 2,200 Palestinians were also injured by gunfire or tear gas, local medics said.
Asked if Israeli troops had gone too far, Netanyahu said: “I don’t know of any army that would do anything differently if you had to protect your border against people who say ‘We’re going to destroy you, and we’re going to flood into your country.'”
Non-lethal means had not worked, “So you’re left with the bad choices,” he said.
“If Hamas had not pushed them there, then nothing would happen. Hamas holds responsibility for doing this, and they’re deliberately doing it,” Netanyahu said, repeating an accusation he made on Monday against the Palestinian militant group.
Monday’s bloodshed took place as the United States opened its new embassy in contested Jerusalem. For the past six weeks, Palestinians have been holding Gaza border demonstrations for the return of Palestinian refugees to areas that are now part of Israel.
Israel rejects any right of return, fearing that it would deprive the state of its Jewish majority.