Matt Frei 10am - 1pm
Israel does not target children or civilians, senior Netanyahu advisor tells LBC
16 May 2021, 12:28 | Updated: 17 May 2021, 06:37
A senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the country’s bombing of targets in Gaza, telling LBC they “do not target civilians” and “definitely do not target children”.
Speaking to LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday, Mark Regev said the high number of civilian casualties in Gaza is due to Hamas using “civilians as human shields”.
“Hamas shoots its rockets at Israel out of mosques, out of schools, out of playgrounds, out of built up areas, precisely to make it more difficult for us to try and target them and prevent them from shooting their rockets. So this is a deliberate Hamas strategy,” he told Tom.
While Israel “in some cases” gives a warning to civilians, Mr Regev explained, in others “if we see a target of opportunity, a major Hamas leader who is there and we can take them out, we will do so without a warning.”
But the senior Israeli advisor, and former ambassador to the UK, stressed: “We do not target civilians, we definitely do not target children.”
"We make a clear distinction at all levels of the Israeli government and in the tactics of our military.... between the terrorist machine itself - Hamas, Islamic Jihad and their operatives, their infrastructure - and between the civilian population of Gaza, who in many ways like us are the victims of this terrible, terrible terrorist regime."
Hamas and other militant groups have fired some 2,900 rockets into Israel since Monday, when tensions over a holy site in Jerusalem and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families from a nearby neighbourhood boiled over.
Eight Israelis have been killed, including a five-year-old boy and a soldier.
However, amidst a civilian death toll of over 174 Palestinians, including 47 children and 29 women, Mr Regev’s comments have been dismissed as "absurd" by a former Palestinian envoy to the UK.
Manuel Hassassian, who was Envoy of the Palestinian Mission to the United Kingdom from 2005 to 2018, told Tom Swarbrick: “Regev makes me really laugh for the simple fact that more than almost 145 civilians have been killed in cold blood.”
“Half of them are women and children and he is saying they are distinguishing between what he is calling Hamas terrorists and that of civilians.”
“That is absurd, what is happening in Gaza is mass murder... Israel is using all kinds of brute, naked aggression against innocent civilians under the pretext that they are hunting down Hamas militants and what-have-you.”
“This is a total farce, they are trying now to spread the rumour that they are defending themselves."
The latest round of fighting is the worst since the 2014 Gaza war and shows little sign of calming despite diplomatic efforts.
On Sunday morning, rescuers in Gaza raced to pull survivors and bodies out of the rubble after Israeli air strikes killed at least 23 and injured 50, in the deadliest single attack since the fighting began.