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Israel to continue bombings despite US calls to tone down campaign

A spokesperson for IDF said its goal is to ensure Hamas is no longer a threat following a deadly terrorist attack on Oct. 7.
Posted at 8:37 AM, Dec 15, 2023

After being told by U.S. President Joe Biden to be more careful with Israel's attack on Gaza, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces told Scripps News it plans to continue carrying out attacks on Hamas targets. 

"I would say we continue to be extremely attentive to the U.S. administration," said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner of the Israel Defense Forces. "And when we are talking about moving from high intensity to low intensity, of course, it relates to the reality, the operational reality on the ground. As long as Hamas has hundreds and hundreds of fighters engaging with us or intending on coming into Israel and butchering our babies in their bedrooms, the intensity will be in accordance."

Lerner added that Israel's missions are moving forward. 

The Biden administration has backed Israel, and remained one of its strongest allies, but the U.S. has expressed concerns over the intensity of Israel's campaign in Gaza.

"I want them to be focused on how to save civilian lives — not stop going after Hamas, but be more careful," President Biden said Thursday. 

The IDF has been actively involved in a conflict with Hamas since terrorists attacked Israel on Oct. 7. 

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The comments come as National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with top Israeli leaders this week, who vow to continue fighting until Hamas is defeated. 

Speaking to Scripps News, Lerner defended Israel's use of imprecise, unguided bombs that pose significant threats to civilians. Lerner noted that the battle is being played out in a densely populated area, making it challenging for the IDF to distinguish between civilians and Hamas fighters. 

"There are munitions that you can use in certain circumstances that do not require guidance that can achieve the military effect," he said. "So the utilization of any munitions need to be in accordance to the laws of armed conflict, the context of the military necessity and proportionality is our intention to distinguish between civilians and combatants. This is the challenge that we are facing."

President Biden's comments came after the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to support a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. The U.S. was among 10 nations that voted against the resolution. 

"Hamas has over the last 16 years controlled the Gaza Strip, utilized all of the powers of government in order to build their terrorist capabilities in order to jeopardize the safety and security of Israel," Lerner said. "So while obviously, there's going to be international concern, our role as the military is to relieve and implement our goals as determined by the government and make sure that they will no longer be a threat."

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Generally, military analysts see Israel using precision-guided munitions when they have identified high-value Hamas targets, moving targets or ones near sensitive sites or dense urban areas in efforts to minimize collateral damage, according to a U.S. official. When those are not used, analysts see Israel using "dive bombing," which has a lower flight altitude and releases payload in closer range for more precision, according to the official. 

As Israel works to maneuver Hamas' system of tunnels in Gaza, a senior administration official said Israel wants to ensure the entrances are not accessible, stating one of the initiatives includes an idea to use seawater to flood some of the tunnels.

Reporting from Scripps News' Haley Bull was used in this report.