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'Proportionality does not weigh on numbers', IDF spokesman says of civilian deaths in Israel response to Hamas attack
2 December 2023, 14:26 | Updated: 2 December 2023, 15:00
A spokesman for the Israeli army has told LBC that the "proportionality" of the Israeli response to the Hamas massacre "does not weigh on numbers" of civilian casualties.
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Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said that proportionality in warfare was about "military necessity".
Speaking to LBC's Sangita Myska on the second day after Israel resumed its military operations in Gaza after a seven-day truce broke down, Lt Col Lerner said that Israel was committed to rooting out Hamas.
"The operations that we are conducting are in order to dismantle and destroy Hamas, who have embedded themselves deeply, deeply within the civilian population," he said.
Hamas-affiliated health authorities said on Saturday that nearly 200 civilians had been killed since the fighting restarted on Friday morning, with 650 injured.
Watch Again: Sangita Myska is joined by Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner | 02/12/23
The same officials said that more than 15,000 people have been killed in Gaza overall since Israel launched its response to Hamas' massacre of October 7, when 1,200 were killed in southern Israel and 240 taken hostage.
Some 5,000 Hamas fighters, out of a possible total of between 20,000 and 25,000 have been killed in the fighting in Gaza.
Asked by Sangita if this was proportionate, Lt Col Lerner said: "That was, I think, absolutely a reality on the ground.
"If... 5000 terrorists have been killed, that's successful.
He added: "Proportionality doesn't weigh... on a number, proportionality and warfare weighs on distinction and weighs on military necessity. And that is proportionality. Not some abstract number, which is terrifying."
Lt Col Lerner added that every time he sees images of the civilian casualties of the war on television "they are heartbreaking".
But he added: "It doesn't change the fact that Hamas have to go.
"Hamas has to leave the arena for everyone's good, and there is a reality where this organisation has conducted the most lethal, brutal, merciless attack against Israel, that has a history of being attacked by terrorist organisations."
Lt Col Lerner said that "even in last 24 hours since we resumed operations, we have killed tens of their terrorists in different locations in the northern Gaza Strip, and in spurts and precision strikes, and we will continue to do so."
International pressure has mounted on Israel to implement more truces, with some pushing for a more permanent ceasefire.
But the IDF spokesperson said: "There is actually no pressure on us, from our perspective. There is no time limit, we have time on our hands in order to implement this feat.
"We have to understand Hamas have governed the Gaza Strip for 16 years. In that time, they have embedded themselves extensively".