Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday Dec 31 pushed back against claims that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, calling such accusations “false” after South Africa filed a case against Israel at the U.N.’s top court.
“I would like to say a word about South Africa’s false accusation that Israel is committing genocide. No, South Africa, it is not we who have come to perpetrate genocide, it is Hamas,” Netanyahu said during a Cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, according to an English translation reported by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“Hamas would kill us all if it only could,” Netanyahu added, referring to the Palestinian militant group that Israel has vowed to eliminate following its Oct. 7 surprise attack.
Netanyahu’s remarks were in response to South Africa’s launching a case at the U.N.’s International Court of Justice last week that accuses Israel of carrying out genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.
Netanyahu argued that Israel’s military is “acting as morally as possible” and doing “everything to avoid harming civilians” as it wages an offensive against Hamas in Gaza.
More than 21,500 Palestinians, including many women and children, have been killed since October, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
The Biden administration has strongly supported Israel following Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks, but in recent weeks U.S. officials have upped their calls for Israel to be more mindful of protecting civilian lives in the coastal enclave.
Several White House officials, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Defense Secretary Llyod Austin and Gen. CQ Brown Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Israel earlier this month, where they encouraged the country to transition to a “lower-intensity” phase of the war.
“We also have some great thoughts about how to transition from high-intensity operations to lower-intensity and more surgical operations,” Austin said earlier this month in Tel Aviv.