UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly defended Israeli forces’ handling of protests on the Gaza Strip border and blamed the violence on the Islamist group Hamas, according to excerpts from an interview with CBS News on Tuesday.
According to excerpts from the interview, Netanyahu said, “They are pushing civilians – women and children – to the line of fire with the aim of causing casualties. We are trying to minimize the number of victims. They are seeking victims to put pressure on Israel, which is ugly.”
The interview is due to be broadcast on Tuesday night.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said 60 Palestinians were killed on Monday, including an 8-month-old girl, from tear gas inhalation at a protest camp on Monday. Local medics said more than 2,200 Palestinians were wounded either by bullets or by tear gas.
Netanyahu said non-lethal means had not worked, so “you have only bad choices.”
“If Hamas did not push them there, nothing happened. Hamas is responsible for this and they do it deliberately, “he said, reiterating his accusation of the movement on Monday.
The killings took place on Monday as the United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem. Palestinians have been protesting for six weeks in commemoration of the Nakba, which coincides with Israel’s creation, the day thousands of Palestinians left their homes or were driven from their homes in violence that culminated in the war between Israel and its Arab neighbors in 1948.
Israel rejects the right of return, fearing that it would deny it a Jewish majority.
Palestinian medical officials say 107 Gazans have been killed since the protests began and about 11,000 people have been wounded, including about 3,500 with live ammunition. There were no reports of Israeli casualties.
Palestinian leaders described the events on Monday as a massacre and the use of live ammunition by Israeli forces has raised worldwide concern and condemnation.