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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas on Monday for trying to “pile up the bodies” of its own Palestinian people to generate sympathy while it fires more rockets into Israel — and Hamas responded by pointing the finger back at Israel.
In an interview with NBC News' Brian Williams, Netanyahu said that Israel had no choice but to defend itself and said the Palestinian militants are culpable for mounting civilian casualties.
"They just don’t care," said Netanyahu. "It’s important to make that clear. They are responsible for all the civilian deaths, which we seek to minimize."
“What would you do if American cities, where you’re sitting now, Brian, would be rocketed, would absorb hundreds of rockets?” Netanyahu said. "You’d say to your leader, 'A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.' And a country’s got to do what a country’s got to do. We have to defend ourselves."
He also blamed Hamas for hiding rockets inside schools and mosques to increase civilian casualties during the Israeli incursion, which began Thursday.
“It's not a cycle (of violence). It's a deliberate strategy of Hamas,” said Netanyahu. “They've taken over Gaza some eight years ago. Instead of turning into a seaside thriving community, they've taken billions of dollars, instead of building kindergartens with it, they're building tunnels — concrete tunnels to blow up our kindergartens.
“They've got this pathological view of life and especially of death,” he added.
Meanwhile, in response to those allegations made by Netanyahu, a spokesperson for Hamas issued a statement exclusively to NBC News
"Gaza is filled with international journalists; every single news network has a presence there. Yet, not a single one of these journalists has reported seeing any weapons or rockets or any Qassam (Hamas' military branch) fighters in or around any of the dozens of hospitals schools or mosques destroyed or bombed by Israel," said Osama Hamdan, who is the Qatar-based Head of International Relations for Hamas.
"The world’s best and most renowned journalists visited the hospital for the handicapped that Israel bombed they didn't see rocket launchers or Qassam fighters. What they saw was the most vulnerable defenseless and innocent humans murdered by a terrorist state."
Hamdan continued, addressing a second point: "As for the targeting of civilians, the numbers speak for themselves. Till now, Israel has murdered more than 550 people in Gaza; according to the UN 80 percent of those are civilians ... As for Hamas, every single Israeli killed by its fighters or its rockets except one have been soldiers in uniform on duty fully armed and on the battlefield."
The Israeli Army says 25 soldiers have been killed since the latest round of fighting began earlier this month, but scores more civilians would likely be dead if not for the country's Iron Dome air defense system stopping Hamas missiles.
The Palestinian Health Ministry says that the death toll in Gaza has been 570 in the same time frame, including 150 children and 70 women, with a total of 3,500 wounded. One hundred Palestinians were killed on Monday alone, the ministry said.
And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday announced that the U.S. will send $47 million in humanitarian aid for tens of thousands of Palestinians who have fled their homes to escape the violence.