Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the ever-increasing number of civilian casualties in Gaza should be blamed on Hamas, not the Israeli army.
"We use missiles to protect our people, they use people to protect their missiles," Netanyahu said on NBC's Meet the Press.
The remarks echo statements Netanyahu made to NBC News Brian Williams' last week.
The Israeli leader on Sunday said that Hamas tells Gazans not to leave, while Israel urges civilians to flee the tumultuous zone.
"They’re sacrificing their own people," Netanyahu said, using a recent school shelling that left 15 dead as an example.
Netanyahu said schools in Gaza are used to target the Israeli army, and that is why a U.N. school was hit Thursday, although he said the devastation may have come from Hamas fire.
UNRWA Spokesman Chris Gunness said the U.N. is a humanitarian organization that does not take sides in the conflict.
"We have said that all sides have to respect the neutrality of U.N. compounds," Gunness said. "We call on the warring parties to respect the sanctity of civilian life," he added.
But Netanyahu said Israel will do whatever is necessary to protect itself against the "terror organization" Hamas.
"I think that we have to make a distinction between the Palestinian, Israeli conflict … and any kind of political solution with Hamas," Netanyahu said, adding that a solution with Palestinians could be reached, but in order to quell Hamas, they have to be demilitarized because it's impossible to compromise with the "terror kingdom."
Israel has accepted five cease-fires during the conflict, Netanyahu said, while Hamas hasn't accepted any of them. In reference to the 24-hour truce Hamas called for on Sunday, Netanyahu said, "believe it or not ... they've even violated their own ceasefire."
"We do target Hamas, we do not target civilians," Netanyahu said.
The death toll in Gaza has surpassed 1,000. Another 6,000 Palestinians have been wounded, according to health officials. At least 46 Israelis have been killed since the start of the conflict.
"We use missiles to protect our people, they use people to protect their missiles."
"The loss of life is terrible ... your heart just breaks," Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Sunday.
Schumer, however, supported the Israeli defense, saying, "it's impossible to have peace as long as Hamas is in control in Gaza."
First published July 27 2014, 8:00 AM