Dem senator: Civilian deaths a ‘recruitment’ tool for Hamas

A Democratic senator urged Israel on Monday to "understand the long-term costs" of Palestinian civilian deaths, saying they were becoming a “recruitment” tool for Hamas.

"This essentially becomes bulletin board material for recruitment efforts for Hamas in their efforts to organize against Israel ... [and] the broader terrorist community to organize against the West," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on MSNBC. 

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Murphy’s warning came after an Israeli strike on Sunday killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians who were sheltering at a United Nations school in Rafah. It followed an incident last week where another U.N. school was hit, leaving 16 dead.

Officials in Gaza say the four-week fight between Israel and Hamas has brought the death toll to 1,800 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians.

"They ultimately need for the people of Gaza to elect new leadership, to turn to more moderate elements of the Palestinian constituency,” Murphy said of Israel. “But they are not going to do that if they are building up this wellspring of continued ongoing, multi-generational hatred for Israel because of these ground attacks.”

The death toll has led to criticism of Israel, with many suggesting its military is using disproportionate force. Israeli officials, though, have accused Hamas of using schools, mosques and medical facilities to harbor weapons and stage attacks.

"When it comes to these U.N. facilities, the fact that there are civilians sheltering rockets can't automatically be a justification for an attack," said Murphy on Monday.

His remarks echoed the State Department, which called the shelling "disgraceful" on Sunday.

The Obama administration has said it supports Israel’s right to defend itself but has used unusually tough language in calling for more to be done to protect civilians. 

Murphy pushed back on the suggestion that the Gaza fight had led to a shift in how Americans viewed Israel.

"There's no change in the fact that we continue to stand by the ability of Israel to defend itself,” he said. “And there's no change in our belief that in Gaza, Hamas are using civilians to shield the weapons that they're using to send into Israel.

"The burden first and foremost is on Hamas. If they stop launching attacks into Israel, then we wouldn't be in the position that we're in today," he added.

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