As the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip showed no sign of abating, FRANCE 24’s Washington correspondent Philip Crowther spoke to Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.
Israel is taking enormous precautions to safeguard civilians in Gaza but Hamas continues to put civilians in harm’s way, the Israeli ambassador told FRANCE 24 in an exclusive interview.
Asked about the White House's warning that Israel must do more to prevent civilian deaths, Dermer said: “Israel is doing more than any country faced with similar circumstances would do... We have about two-thirds of Israelis that have to run into bomb shelters day after day. If you had 200 million Americans who are in bomb shelters day after day, I can assure you that the American military would use more force than Israel has to actually achieve the objective.”
He said Israel should be admired internationally for its efforts to keep civilians safe, and that he stood by an earlier statement in which he said the Israeli military deserved a Nobel Peace Prize.
“That doesn’t mean that we're perfect. It doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes…. But we are taking measures that no other country has taken – dropping flyers, making phone calls, sending text messages, giving people sometimes 48 hours [to get out] ... I think it is working very well.”
He said Gaza was a very densely built up area, which made it more difficult to avoid civilian casualties.
“If Israel [were not] taking these precautions, you would see a much greater number … maybe 10 times or 100 times the casualties. And don’t forget Israel is taking all these measures when our own civilians are facing daily rocket fire."
“Why are there civilian casualties? I’ll tell you why. Because despite the fact that we are being so cautious, you are facing an enemy in Hamas that uses their own civilians as human shields, that [turns] hospitals into military command centres, that turns mosques into weapons depots, that puts rockets into UN schools. [This is] an enemy that is telling their people to go into harm’s way when we are trying to get them out.”