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Israeli ambassador to the U.S. defends shelling of Gaza

By Aileen Graef   |   Aug. 1, 2014 at 1:11 PM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer defended his country against accusations that it has engaged in "unjustifiable" attacks against Gaza.

While speaking with the BBC Friday, Dermer defended Israel's airstrikes against Hamas, which have been widely criticized due to the high number of civilian casualties. Criticisms were heightened after Israel's alleged strike against a U.N. school in Gaza killed more than 15 civilians seeking shelter. Both the White House and the U.N. have condemned Israel for the attack.

"The shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday. "And it is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to the high standards that they have set for themselves."

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said there is little doubt that Israel is responsible for the attack ans called it "unjustifiable."

Dermer said that the world should withhold judgement until Israel finishes its investigation and reaffirmed that the country is doing everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

"I think we've done everything we can to avoid civilian casualties. You know we drop leaflets and make phone calls, send text messages. We take action that no military in history has taken, particularly when its own homeland is under constant attack. We've had two-thirds of our country in bomb shelters day after day for the last three-and-a-half weeks. So, what I would ask you is, 'What would happen if 40 million Britons were in bomb shelters when your forces were fighting this fight, how would you respond?' and I think then people understand Israel has done more than other militaries have done when faced with similar threats."

The U.N. has alleged that both Hamas and Israel have committed war crimes, but Dermer said the U.N. has unfairly framed the conflict in Hamas' favor and the finger-pointing should be aimed in the direction of Hamas.

"The real war criminals here is Hamas for placing military command centers in hospitals, to turn U.N. schools into weapons storehouse, and to turn mosque into military facilities," said Dermer.

He said the attacks will not end until Israel can guarantee lasting peace, which will be accomplished under three conditions: an end to the rocket fire from Hamas, destruction of the tunnels Hamas is using to ambush Israeli forces, and an permanent disarmament of Hamas. Dermer did not give a specific time frame for the steps to take place.

A 72-hour cease-fire broke after just two hours Friday, with Hamas and Israel blaming each other for the collapse. The Israeli Defense Forces claim Hamas launched rockets which spurred them to retaliate. The U.N. is investigating and said if it is confirmed that Hamas broke the humanitarian cease-fire, it would "constitute a serious violation... which should be condemned in the strongest terms."

Topics: Ban Ki, Gaza, Hamas
Follow @AileenGraef and @UPI on Twitter.
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