Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vigorously defended his nation’s track record on safeguarding civilians as the war against Hamas rages.
Rejecting calls for a ceasefire, Netanyahu argued that Israel has been taking aggressive steps to minimize civilian casualties and drew parallels to the fight against Nazi Germany.
“We want all the civilians to be moved out of harm’s way and Hamas is doing everything in their power to keep them in harm’s way,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Netanyahu finds himself under heightened international pressure as the Palestinian death toll continues to rise.
Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the death toll, saying “far too many Palestinians” have been killed in the conflict.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, widely regarded as a questionable source, has estimated that 11,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war broke out.
Israel recently revised down its casualty estimate from 1,400 to 1,200 since the bloody Oct. 7 surprise attack.
CNN anchor Dana Bash grilled Netanyahu about steps Israel is taking to help evacuate hospitals like Al-Shifa that his government claims have operated as command centers of sorts for Hamas.
“We’re obviously treading carefully when it comes to hospitals. But we’re also not going to give immunity to the terrorists,” he said.
“I think any sort of loss [of life] is a tragedy. And the blame should be placed squarely on Hamas because it prevents them from leaving the warzone, sometimes at gunpoint,” he said.
Netanyahu explained that Israel is helping to evacuate the hospitals by “creating safe corridors” which provide “designated routes to a safe zone” spared from the fighting.
He also pleaded with the American audience to consider how the US would react if it suffered a comparable terrorist rampage.
“Just imagine what would happen if the United States were attacked Viciously by 20 9/11s? That’s the proportionate number,” he said. “Fifty thousand Americans killed. Ten thousand Americans held hostage, including babies, elderly, women, children 10,000 rockets falling on your cities.”
Netanyahu noted that there were substantial civilian deaths when Western powers defeated the Nazis in Germany during WWII.
“It’s the Battle of civilization against barbarism. And if we don’t win here, the scourge will pass [from] the Middle East to other regions,” he argued.
The Israeli prime minister underscored that the Hamas “savages” had “perpetrated the worst horrors on Jews since the Holocaust.”
Last week, Israel agreed to four-hour daily pauses in the fighting to give civilians relief, but Netanyahu was clear he felt that pausing for too long would give Hamas time to regroup and replenish.
Recently, Netanyahu has rejected international pressure to back a plan for a Palestinian-led governance of Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.
He explained that his objective is to “demilitarize” and “deradicalize” the Gaza Strip.
“[The] Palestinian Authority has unfortunately failed on both camps. They don’t demilitarize the West Bank,” he said. “They refuse to this day, 36 days after this savagery, to condemn what Hamas did.”
When asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about what the governing structure in the Gaza Strip will look like after the war, Netanyahu replied, “It’s too early to say.”
“[But] the first task we have to achieve is defeat Hamas.”
Internally, Netanyahu has seen his approval rating in Israel plummet. Although he has formed an emergency government since Hamas’ deadly attack, there are lingering questions about the security failures that transpired under his watch.
But the prime minister contended that now is not the time to grapple with what went wrong.
“We’re going to answer all these questions,” he said. “Right now, I think what we have to do is unite the country for one purpose, one purpose alone, and that is to achieve victory.”