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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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July 18th, 2014
06:10 PM ET

IDF spokesman on civilian casualties: There will be mistakes

The following is a transcript of a remote interview between CNN's Jake Tapper and spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. For our interview with a Hamas official, click here.

Jake Tapper, anchor "The Lead": Joining us now in Tel Aviv is Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces. Lt. Colonel Lerner, thanks for joining us. Can you give us a status update on your operation? And is it just limited to shutting down these Hamas tunnels, because to many observers it seems to be expanding in goal.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, IDF spokesman: Well, indeed the IDF activities that commenced last night in a ground mobilization are primarily to deal with the tunnels. As we go into the Gaza strip, cross into the fence, clearly the tunnels that are utilized to infiltrate Israel in order to carry out devastating damage and death and carnage, they are primary targets. I would point out that over the last 11 days, we've had about 1,600 rockets launched from Gaza. So those would be a secondary target, as well. These are the type of threats we are up against.

Tapper: Why did the Israeli military reportedly destroy the Al-Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital in Gaza?

Lerner: Over the recent days, we've had several accounts of rocket launching from around the hospital. We had actually noticed and notified the administration of the hospital that there is a problem in the immediate vicinity, and that there is rocket launching taking place around the hotel, around the hospital, excuse me. So we had to the operate against that, that target. Unfortunately, the administration just until last night refused to evacuate the, evacuate the premises, and decided to take the situation into their own hands. I would say that this actually illustrates the type of challenge we are up against. Whereas all of these rockets that are being launched at Israel, they're being launched from residential areas, from places like near the Wafa hospital. They're being launched from the courtyards of mosques. They place rockets, yesterday the U.N. announced rockets have been placed in a school of theirs. So you know, this is the type of challenge we face and it is a huge feat for the military and for our planning and executing of military operations.

Tapper: I believe it was an abandoned school but point taken. Yet, I do wonder, sir, if you look at the four little boys who were killed on the beach playing soccer, if you look at other incidents, the women who were killed in that home for the disabled, we have reports now of four children being killed northeast of Gaza City, one of them as young as 2 years old, are you really attributing all of the civilian death, all of the dozens and dozens of innocent children being killed by the Israeli military, is it all because of human shields, all because of Hamas being embedded, none of it is the fault of the Israeli military?

Lerner: Primarily, I think it's important to say that any human life that is lost is a tragedy. And we openly declare that, we openly say it, and we actually mean it. You know, operating within this urban warfare, operating in this close contact is a huge feat, and indeed, when we are trying to strike at these terrorists that are deeply embedded, then there is a danger and it can spill over. We are going to a great lengths to try and minimize the civilian impact. We are using - what other military in the world calls can up its enemy and says we are going to strike your command and control position? This is the type of thing we do. We send leaflets. We inform the people. I'm not saying that there cannot be mistakes. And we will investigate the breaches of those incidents that you pointed out, and get to the bottom of the circumstances. But ultimately, indeed, Hamas, they are accountable for localizing placing the, unlawfully placing these rockets within the houses within the buildings, within the residential areas.

Tapper: I guess we'll hear all the details about the four little boys on beach when the investigation is done. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, thank you so much.

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