CNN's Jake Tapper made waves throughout the media recently when he asked Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israel's Prime Minister, to defend the number of civilians who have died in Gaza. Tapper's comparison between the amount of Palestinian children killed in the current Israeli operation versus the number of Israeli soldiers killed since Hamas' take over of the Gaza Strip in 2006 stirred debate and has been the focus of media fact checkers - for which politifact.com rated as 'mostly true.'
TAPPER: I have to ask you about these heartbreaking scenes that we're seeing from Gaza. Now, Mark, if my calculations are right, Israel has in the last three weeks killed more Palestinian children, more than 200, than the total number of Israeli soldiers killed in military operations since 2006, which includes the second Lebanon war, Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defense, and now Operation Protective Edge.
That is a lot of dead children, especially relative to the number of soldiers that have been killed in Israel in Israeli military operations in the last eight years. At what point does the Israeli government say, enough, we're killing too many innocent children?
REGEV: You know, we had a special press conference in Tel Aviv last night.
And the chief of staff of the Israeli military, the most highest Israeli official in uniform, he said it in openly, and he said it in Hebrew to the Israeli public. It wasn't something for foreign consumption. He said, every innocent victim in Gaza pains us.
And I think he was saying something very genuine, something very real that Israelis feel. We don't want to see innocent civilians caught up in the crossfire between us and Hamas. But I think the question that you raise...
TAPPER: But, Mark, it's not just the crossfire, though.
REGEV: No, it is.
The question has to be raised. More than two weeks ago, Israel unequivocally and unconditionally accepted an Egyptian cease-fire proposal that was supported by the United States, by the Arab League, by the United Nations. Hamas said no to that cease-fire. Now, Hamas is responsible for all deaths on their side and on our side because they were the ones that kept this conflict going.
TAPPER: Mark, but Netanyahu said no to the cease-fire draft that Kerry proposed.
REGEV: Not true. Not true. Not true.
Let's be clear here. People are fighting, people are dying because Hamas has repeatedly said no to a cease-fire. And, unfortunately, civilian casualties in Gaza are made there -- are there because Hamas has adopted a deliberate policy of endangering Gaza civilians, using them as human shields.
Just now, there's breaking news out of a Reuters correspondent. A third UNRWA school -- that's a school by the United Nations group that's supposed to give humanitarian support to Palestinians -- a third UNRWA school was discovered now with weapons being stored, missiles, Hamas rockets.
TAPPER: And, Mark, I agree with you. That's horrific. That's horrific.
REGEV: You see here not an aberration, a systematic -- a systematic pattern of behavior by Hamas.
TAPPER: That's horrific. I agree with you.
REGEV: Who abuse civilian -- civilian infrastructure.
TAPPER: But, Mark, just recently, the IDF attacked the home of a family in Gaza, the Abu Jama (ph) family. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem says the target was likely Ahmad Sulaman Samud (ph), a member of Hamas' military wing.
He was killed in the operation. He was targeted, he was killed. And guess what? So were 25 members of this family, including 18 children. So you say you're not targeting civilians. You're targeting bad guys. You're targeting Hamas militants. But civilians are being killed.
REGEV: Let's be clear here.
And let's look at the real options that exist in the real world. As you said, and you agreed with me, Hamas is shooting out of civilian infrastructure, out of homes, out of urban neighborhoods, out of mosques, out of schools. Their rockets are raining down on Israel.
I think we have had some 2,600 rocks on Israeli cities over the last three weeks. Now, what are our options as Israel, is to say, no, we can't shoot back? We can't shoot back because we might inadvertently hit a civilian?
Of course, we will make a maximum effort to avoid sitting civilians. They're not our targets; our targets are the Hamas terrorists trying to kill us.
TAPPER: I don't think that anyone is suggesting you shouldn't fire back, Mark. I think the question is, is what Israel's doing, A, is it commensurate with the attacks coming at Israel, and, B, is it actually going to be good for Israel in the long run?
And I think there are a lot of serious questions about that, especially these people, 1.8 million of them living in what has been described as an open air prison. Now they're not going to have power for another year or so because the only power plant in Gaza was bombed, probably by Israel, last night. I think the question is, is this the best course?
REGEV: You don't know that. No one knows that. No one knows that. No one knows that. No one knows who hit the power plant. And we have actually done our own investigation, and we don't know that it was Israel at all.
It could have been -- 10 percent of Hamas munitions fired at Israel fall short and they hit in Gaza. We know for a fact that's what happened yesterday at the hospital, where the Shifa Hospital was hit by an outgoing Hamas rocket that malfunctioned. And that could be the case today. We don't know.
But to blame it on Israel automatically is I think incorrect. But can I answer the larger question that you raise?
TAPPER: Please do.
REGEV: Look, Israel has to strike back against those who are shooting at us those rockets.
Now, on one hand, you can't give the terrorists immunity. You can't allow them to shoot because of the possibility of collateral damage. On the other hand, you have to be as surgical as is humanly possible in a very, very difficult combat situation.
Think of it this way. If terrorists had found a winning strategy that by shooting out of civilian neighborhoods, they have got immunity, what does that mean for terrorists around the world? They have found the winning way to win the war against the democracies. They have found, by using civilians as human shields, they can target innocent civilians with impunity.
Is that good for America? Is that good for Canada? Is that good for any democracy if terrorists finally found that winning combination? The only way to fight them is to be as pinpointed as possible in a difficult situation.
And once again -- I say it again -- Hamas is unequivocally responsible for this tragedy, first of all, by rejecting the cease-fires which would have ended it in the first place, and secondly by adopting tactics, tactics that deliberately endanger Gaza civilians and deliberately leads to their deaths.
TAPPER: We're about to lose the satellite. Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thanks for coming on and answering my questions.
REGEV: My pleasure, sir.
TAPPER: And we should note that since I asked Regev about the authenticity of the transcript at the beginning of the interview, both the White House and Prime Minister Netanyahu's office have issued statements saying that the transcript is completely false.
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