Netanyahu Defends Shujaiyeh Attack

Tells BBC that Israel repeatedly warned residents to flee, but Hamas kept them there as human shields; though most of dead were civilians, PM says target was 'a source of terror.'

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Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Independence Hall of Israel in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 1, 2014.
Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Independence Hall of Israel in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 1, 2014. Credit: AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended the military actions that resulted in some 60 Palestinian deaths, mostly civilians, in Gaza's Shujaiyeh neighborhood, maintaining that Hamas blocked residents in the area from fleeing so it could use them as human shields. Netanyahu made the statement on BBC's Arabic Service as part of a round of interviews in major international media.

"We regret every civilian casualty," the prime minister said. "We target only the sources of terror and this [the target in Shuja'iyya] is a source of terror. We asked in every way for the civilian population to leave, Hamas told them not to so they could be used as human shields. I call to the residents of Gaza – do not remain there. Hamas wants you to die, we want you to be safe. Hamas is responsible for the escalation, and Hamas is responsible for the casualties among civilians."

In an interview with CNN, Netanyahu said Israel has no plans to occupy Gaza, but that the military operation would continue until quiet was restored for Israel's citizens.

"Nobody wants to go to excessive military lengths," he said. "But what is happening here is excessive."

Asked how long it would take to achieve the government's primary declared goal – the destruction of the tunnels inside the Gaza Strip, some of which lead into Israeli territory – the prime minister replied, "Fairly quickly."

In an interview with ABC-TV's "This Week," Netanyahu said he wanted to achieve a long-term cessation of violence in Gaza, and to work with the international community toward removing all rockets from the Strip.

He is expected to hold a news conference Sunday evening prior to the meeting of the security cabinet.

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