Netanyahu admits Israel 'not successful' in reducing civilian casualties in Gaza

Prime Minister says Israel will agree to a temporary ceasefire if Hamas frees hostages

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he wants to ensure that ’Gaza has a different future’. Reuters
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted his country's forces were “not successful” in minimising civilian casualties during their assault on Gaza.

“We’ll try to finish that job with minimal civilian casualties,” Mr Netanyahu told CBS News on Thursday.

“That's what we're trying to do: minimal civilian casualties. But unfortunately, we’re not successful.”

Mr Netanyahu said Israel's military is warning Gaza civilians ahead of strikes by dropping leaflets and calling them on their phones.

“Any civilian death is a tragedy,” he said.

“And we shouldn't have any because we’re doing everything we can to get the civilians out of harm’s way, while Hamas is doing everything to keep them in harm’s way.”

Mr Netanyahu said the aim of the campaign is to destroy Hamas, ensuring that its threat “never rises again from Gaza, and that Gaza has a different future”.

International pressure is mounting on Israel for a ceasefire due to the death toll and humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The enclave has been under Israeli bombardment for more than a month.

More than 11,500 people have been killed – including more than 4,700 children – and most hospitals are out of service due to a lack of power, medical supplies and damage.

Israel began bombarding Gaza after Hamas militants attacked Israeli settlements on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and abducting another 240.

Two thirds of Gaza's population of 2.3 million have been displaced by the war.

On Thursday, the Israeli air force dropped leaflets on parts of south Gaza telling people to evacuate for their own safety.

Mr Netanyahu said Israel is moving closer to its goal of freeing hostages, as the ground incursion is putting pressure on Hamas.

“We’ll have a temporary ceasefire if we can get our hostages. I don’t think it serves that purpose for me to elaborate further on that.”

He declined to say if he would agree to free Palestinian prisoners in return of the Israeli hostages.

Regarding Wednesday's raid on Al Shifa Hospital by Israeli troops, Mr Netanyahu said he has “concrete evidence” that Hamas had been using the hospital for military purposes.

Hamas and hospital officials deny this.

“We are trying to do the moral thing, the right thing, to deprive Hamas of having this safe zone in a hospital, but at the same time to neutralise its use as a command centre for terror. And so far we’ve achieved that,” said Mr Netanyahu.

Israeli forces have released footage on a number of weapons they said they found at the hospital, but provided no evidence of a Hamas base there.

Addressing the issue of a surge in violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Mr Netanyahu said anyone who takes the law into their own hands would be punished.

Updated: November 17, 2023, 9:17 AM