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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Netanyahu: More Hamas comprise Gaza’s death toll

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JERUSALEM – Israel’s prime minister said on a podcast that almost half of those killed in the Gaza war are Hamas fighters, playing down a civilian toll that has sparked global outrage.

Benjamin Netanyahu maintained the overall toll is lower than that given by authorities in the Palestinian territory.

According to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, at least 35,091 people have been killed in the territory during more than seven months of war between Israel and Palestinian militants.

But Netanyahu suggested in an interview on the “Call Me Back” podcast conducted on Sunday that the death toll in Gaza was actually around 30,000 and that Hamas fighters accounted for nearly half of that toll.

Gazan authorities do not provide an overview of the number of Palestinian militants killed, but have repeatedly said that a large majority of those killed in the war have been women and children.

The United Nations and a long line of countries have voiced alarm at the number of civilian deaths.

United Nations rights chief Volker Turk warned in a statement last month that children especially are “disproportionately paying the ultimate price in this war”.

But Netanyahu insisted to podcaster Dan Senor that Israel had “been able to keep the ratio of civilians to combatants killed… (to) a ratio of about one to one.”

“Fourteen thousand have been killed, combatants, and probably around 16,000 civilians have been killed,” he said.

He gave similar figures in March during an interview with Politico, at a time when Gaza’s health ministry was reporting a toll of at least 31,045.

Netanyahu said at the time that the figure included 13,000 militants and the number of civilians was “far less than” 20,000.

His latest comment comes at a time of intensified pressure from Israel’s chief military supplier, the United States, over the Palestinian toll from the war.

Washington paused delivery of 3,500 bombs, and US President Joe Biden warned he would stop supplying artillery shells and other weapons if Israel carries out a full-scale invasion of Rafah, where around one million people are sheltering.

A US State Department report on Friday said it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel has used American arms in ways inconsistent with standards on humanitarian rights but that the United States could not reach “conclusive findings.”

The bloodiest ever Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also seized around 250 hostages, scores of whom were freed during a week-long truce in November. Israel estimates 128 captives remain in Gaza, including 36 the military says are dead.


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