Israeli ambassador says military can’t distinguish between civilians, terrorists in Gaza death toll

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog on Sunday said the Israeli military is unable to distinguish between civilians and terrorists in Gaza’s reported death toll amidst the war with Hamas.

When presented with reports of thousands of Palestinian civilian casualties on CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” Herzog said, “I will be very careful, very careful about judging those numbers because neither you nor I know how many of them are armed terrorists and how many of them are civilians.”

“So let’s be very careful about it, because I don’t know how many of them are terrorists, and our military says that it kills numerous terrorist in armed clashes, so let’s be very careful about that,” Herzog continued.

The ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza is approaching one month since Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip, launched a bloody incursion into Israel that killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of Israeli civilians.

Israel has since responded with a heavy bombardment of Gaza, where an estimated 2.3 million Palestinians reside. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry has reported more than 9,400 Palestinian deaths, including more than 24,000 injured since Hamas’s initial Oct. 7 attacks.

Those numbers have been contested, most notably by President Biden last week and some of his top deputies who say that while they believe thousands of Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, they suggest the death toll may not be that high.

The Gaza Health Ministry has continued to tally casualty numbers and remains one of the only official sources for casualties in Gaza. Israel closed off Gaza’s borders, with only a few international news organizations allowed into the territory, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

The AP, one of the few American news outlets with teams in Gaza, noted that while those journalists are unable to do a comprehensive count, they have observed “large numbers of bodies at the sites of airstrikes, morgues and funerals.”

The climbing death toll in Gaza has prompted calls for a temporary cease-fire from several world and humanitarian leaders and sparked protests around the U.S. and international cities.

Herzog said the Israeli military is “making every effort” to distinguish between terrorists and the civilian population despite acknowledging not being able to tell the difference.

“We called the civilian population to move to the south out of harm’s way, and Hamas is doing everything they can to keep them in housing,” Herzog said. “Most of the population moved to the south and as we speak … and we are pressing, pressing Hamas in the north, we are calling people to move out of harm’s way.”

Israel has warned more than 1 million Palestinians to move south over the past few weeks. The Israeli military stepped up its ground invasion of Gaza late last week, with troops entering Gaza City.

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