DEIR AL-BALAH, GAZA STRIP: Israel’s prime minister pushed back on Saturday against growing calls from Western allies to do more to protect Palestinian civilians, as troops closed in on Gaza’s largest hospital that Israel claims is Hamas’ main command post but still hosts thousands of patients and people seeking shelter.
Benjamin Netanyahu said the responsibility for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas, repeating long-standing allegations that the militant group uses civilians in Gaza as human shields. He said that while Israel has urged civilians to leave combat zones, “Hamas is doing everything it can to prevent them from leaving.”
His statement came after French President Emmanuel Macron pushed for a cease-fire and urged other leaders to join his call, telling the BBC there was “no justification” for Israel’s ongoing bombing.
Following Hamas’ deadly October 7 attack on Israel, in which at least 1,200 people were killed, Israel’s allies have defended the country’s right to protect itself. But now into the second month of war, there are growing differences in how many feel Israel should conduct its fight. The US has been pushing for temporary pauses that would allow for wider distribution of badly needed aid to civilians in the besieged territory where conditions are increasingly dire.
However, Israel has so far only agreed to brief daily periods during which civilians are able to flee the area of ground combat in northern Gaza. Since these evacuation windows were announced a week ago, over 150,000 civilians have fled the north, according to UN monitors.