Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the ground operation by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, and said that it wasn't Israel, but Hamas, that is deliberately targeting civilians.
Netanyahu's remarks came in response to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressing concern over the mounting death toll in the battered enclave and urging the Israeli government to exercise restraint.
"It is not Israel that is deliberately targeting civilians but Hamas that beheaded, burned and massacred civilians in the worst horrors perpetrated on Jews since the Holocaust. While Israel is doing everything to keep civilians out of harm’s way, Hamas is doing everything to keep them in harm’s way," Netanyahu said in a tweet.
He also said that Israel has been providing humanitarian corridors and safe zones to civilians in Gaza, while Hamas prevents them from leaving "at gunpoint".
"It is Hamas, not Israel, that should be held accountable for committing a double war crime - targeting civilians while hiding behind civilians. The forces of civilization must back Israel in defeating Hamas barbarism," Netanyahu added.
In his sharpest criticism of Israel since the war against Hamas, Trudeau said that the "killing of women, of children, of babies" in the besieged Gaza Strip must end.
"I urge the government of Israel to exercise maximum restraint. The world is watching, on TV, on social media - we're hearing the testimonies of doctors, family members, survivors, kids who have lost their parents," news agency Reuters quoted him as saying.
Addressing a news conference in the western province of British Columbia, Trudeau said, "The world is witnessing this killing of women, of children, of babies. This has to stop."
However, Trudeau also said Hamas needed to stop using Palestinians as human shields and should release all its hostages. He had earlier called for the release of all hostages in Gaza and the delivery of enough aid to address civilian needs.
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