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Israeli ambassador defends Gaza strikes: 'What do you think the United States would do?'

July 31, 2014 at 8:03 AM ET

The Israeli ambassador to the United States continued to defend his nation’s military actions, insisting Thursday that Israel must strike back against Hamas rather than cowering in bomb shelters.

“You have to put it in context. What do you think the United States would do if you had 200 million Americans in bomb shelters?” said Ambassador Ron Dermer, referring to the idea that roughly two-thirds of his densely populated nation has sought shelter against Hamas rocket fire over the past three weeks.

“Israel has taken great care to avoid civilian casualties, but we’re fighting an enemy that not only fires at our civilians but hides behind their civilians. That’s the problem.”

Video: Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador for the United States, says Israel has taken great care of avoiding civilian casualties in its mission to disarm Hamas, blaming the terrorist organization for using civilians as “human shields.”

Earlier Thursday, Israel’s military announced plans to call up another 16,000 reserves in the campaign that has played out in the Gaza Strip. The campaign has claimed the lives of least 1,360 Palestinians, most of them civilians. At least 59 Israelis also have died during the conflict.

Dermer also defended Israel against other criticisms: 

  • The notion it was playing into the hands of militant Hamas leaders by racking up civilian losses: “Would you want your government and military defend you? So what would you have us do? They are firing 100 rockets at our citizens every day. We’re not going to live that way. No country should have to live that way."

  • On losing the worldwide public relations battle as the Palestinian death toll continues to soar, leading to anti-Israeli protests that sometimes turn anti-Semitic: "I think the world should be outraged by it. Should take a stand against it. The birth of the state of Israel did not end hatred towards the Jewish people. It just gave Jews the ability to defend themselves against that hatred. That’s what the state of Israel is doing right now."

Video: Amid a growing global outcry against the number of civilian casualties, Israel has called up an additional 16.000 reservists in its mission to disarm Hamas and destroy its tunnels. NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel reports.


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