Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Palestinian civilians being killed en masse are simply “collateral damage” in his military’s destruction of Gaza.
The right-wing leader appeared on multiple cable news shows to speak on the current state Israel’s monthlong siege on Gaza, which human rights experts have warned amount to ethnic cleansing and war crimes. For much of his appearances, Netanyahu attempted to downplay both his responsibility in the deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israelis as well as his military’s role in killing Palestinians.
More than 11,100 Palestinians, most of them women and children, have been killed since Israel’s violence escalated on Oct. 7, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Thousands are still trapped under the rubble of destroyed buildings and homes, and millions are displaced and being forced to reside in Gaza refugee camps that are also being bombed by Israel. Many of the dead also include aid workers, journalists and doctors.
In Israel, the death toll stands at more than 1,200, most of whom were killed in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. The U.S. believes that the number of hostages taken by Hamas militants during the attack is in the hundreds.
On Friday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes, and said that the only solution to the violence is to end the Israeli occupation and allow Palestinians the right to self-determination.
“The extensive Israeli bombardment of Gaza, including the use of high impact explosive weapons in densely populated areas, razing tens of thousands of buildings to the ground, is clearly having a devastating humanitarian and human rights impact,” he said. “After four weeks of bombardment and shelling by Israeli forces in Gaza, the indiscriminate effects of such weapons in a densely populated area is clear. Israel must immediately end the use of such methods and means of warfare, and the attacks must be investigated.”
“Considering the predictable high level of civilian casualty and the wide scale of destruction of civilian objects we have very serious concerns that these amount to disproportionate attacks in breach of international humanitarian law.”
Netanyahu called Türk’s accusation “hogwash,” claiming that Israeli forces are not deliberately targeting civilians despite the skyrocketing Palestinian death toll. The prime minister also repeated his claim that Hamas is responsible for Gaza’s civilian casualties, when it is Israel launching the attacks from air, sea and land.
“We’re deliberately doing everything in our power to target the terrorists,” Netanyahu told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And the civilians, as happens in every legitimate war, are sometimes what are called ‘collateral damage.’ That’s a longer way of saying unintended casualties.”
Israel’s ground forces battled Hamas militants near Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, where health officials say thousands of medics, patients and displaced families seeking shelter are trapped with no electricity and lack of medical supplies. Israel has accused Hamas of hiding in the hospital without providing evidence, but Hamas and hospital staff have both denied the allegations.
“Some hospitals, including Al Quds and Al Shifa hospitals, have also received specific evacuation orders, in addition to the general evacuation orders to all of northern residents of Gaza. But such evacuation, as the World Health Organization has warned, is a ‘death sentence’ in a context where the entire medical system is collapsing and hospitals in southern Gaza have no capacity to absorb more patients,” Türk said.
“While bombings on Gaza from air, land and sea continue, the complete siege now lasting over one month has made it an agony for residents in Gaza to find basic necessities, and frankly to survive,” he said. “All forms of collective punishment must come to an end.”
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, al-Shifa’s last generator ran out of fuel on Saturday, resulting in the deaths of three premature babies and four other patients. Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said that 37 other children may be on the verge of death after the life support machines stopped working in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Netanyahu claimed that Israel would help evacuate patients from the hospital. But in a statement obtained by Palestinian news agency WAFA, Palestinian Minister of Health Mai al-Kaila said that Israeli forces “are not evacuating people from hospitals; instead they are forcibly evicting the wounded onto the streets, leaving them to face inevitable death.”
Medical Aid for Palestinians, a United Kingdom-based humanitarian group, said it is concerned that more babies at al-Shifa Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit will soon die. The organization also called out news outlets who are failing to verify Israel’s claims about its bombardment.
“We are deeply concerned by uncritical media reporting regarding the Israeli military’s statement that it will help move premature babies trapped at the hospital to a ‘safer hospital,’” MAP CEO Melanie Ward wrote. “The only safe option to save these babies would be for Israel to cease its assault and besiegement of al-Shifa, to allow fuel to reach the hospital, and to ensure the surviving parents of these babies can be reunited with them.”