Civilian casualties in Gaza during the increasing violence with Israel is "100 percent" the fault of Hamas, the militant Islamic group that controls the Palestinian enclave, Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday.
In a speech on the Senate floor, the Florida Republican said the Jewish state was being unfairly blamed for the rising death toll in Gaza.
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News reports say Gaza residents have been told to ignore Israeli phone calls
warning of strikes and urging them to evacuate.
The Washington Free Beacon
reports the policy is an effort by Hamas to garner international sympathy at the increased death toll.
"It is tragic, unfortunately, that civilians are dying in Gaza," Rubio said. "But the reason why civilians are dying is 100 percent Hamas’ fault.
"You see, this is an organization that puts rockets and military installations right next to nurseries and hospitals and civilian population centers. You know why they do that? They do that because they know that when they launch a rocket, Israel will respond by hitting that rocket launcher, and when that rocket launcher is destroyed, so are the areas around it, and then they can get the cameras to go in there and say, 'Look what Israel did. They wiped out a nursery or an apartment building.'"
Hamas know exactly what they’re doing to get positive news coverage, Rubio said.
"Israel is fighting for their very survival," Rubio said. "On the other side of this conflict is a terrorist organization bent on their destruction."
He also blasted the Obama administration’s stance toward the Jewish state in its relations with Palestine.
"I was concerned about the amount of pressure that the secretary of state was placing on the Israelis to enter into a negotiation with a Palestinian authority that didn’t have the authority or the power to reach a peace agreement they could possibly enforce, much less deliver on," Rubio said.
"I was concerned that that pressure was being put on them at a time when Israel faced so many other challenges, the No. 1 being the ambitions that Iran has to acquire a nuclear weapon and long-range rockets that could strike Israel and eventually the mainland of the United States."
The impassioned speech came the same day Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the military to begin a ground offensive
"Following 10 days of Hamas attacks by land, air, and sea, and after repeated rejections of offers to de-escalate the situation, the Israel Defense Forces has initiated a ground operation within the Gaza Strip," the military said in a statement.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Israel "will pay dearly" for the assault. "Hamas is ready for a confrontation," he said, according to The Washington Post.
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