“Many people will sympathise with and understand the need to stop the people scaling the fence at Gaza and of course you’re absolutely right that the protests were not peaceful,” Lord Howard said.
“But fewer people…sympathise with and understand your proposition that the only way to stop people scaling the fence was to kill them, why couldn’t you use rubber bullets? Why couldn’t you, if… you have to use live ammunition, why couldn’t you shoot them in the legs?”
“Why did you have to kill them to stop them scaling the fence?”
Mr Netanyahu said Hamas had organised the protests to maximise casualities because dead bodies “photograph better” and were using civilians as human shields.
“Everything you said Mr Howard has been tried, and other things and it didn’t work and in fact nobody intentionally went out to kill anyone – people died accidentally,” Mr Netanyahu said.
“And I can tell that you that Hamas at a certain point said ‘not enough people have been killed, push more, let the Jews kill more.’
“Their goal was to maximise casualties, our goal was to minimise casualties and avoid fatalities. This is a new tactic, it’s a new form of warfare.”
He said if Britain could devise a way to deal with a similiar situation without using force he would adopt it.
Lord Howard told Fairfax Media after the exchange that he was not satisfied with Mr Netanyahu’s response.
“We have dealt with situations, not exactly the same, but we have dealt with situations in Northern Ireland without using force and when we did use force on Bloody Sunday we learnt form that,” he said
Earlier, Mr Netanyahu said that he had approached the US space agency NASA and his government’s own agencies to discover a way to supress protesters without killing them.
“We tried water cannons and tried tear gas and none has worked against this kind of tactic so they’re working on it and given our record we probably will figure out something, but we haven’t got there yet,” he said.
“We’re investing in this very heavily now.”
Israeli use of force against Palestinians has drawn particular international attention in recent months after at least 120 Palestinians were killed during protests at the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, including 60 in a single day on May 14.
Israel says many protest participants were members of Hamas, the dominant armed group in the Gaza Strip, and militants trying to breach the fenced frontier and launch attacks. The Palestinians say most of the dead and the thousands who have been wounded were unarmed civilians.
Latika Bourke is a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age based in London. She has previously worked for Fairfax Media, the ABC and 2UE in Canberra. Latika won the Walkley Award for Young Australian Journalist of the Year in 2010.
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