Israel Gaza live updates 39Constructive meeting39 with officials but 39gaps remain39

Israel-Gaza live updates: 'Constructive meeting' with officials but 'gaps remain', says Israeli PM's office – ABC News

ABC News embedded with Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus, commander of the Israel Defense Forces' 98th Division, which currently controls the southern Gaza Strip, asked him about alleged war crimes, the recent killing of an unarmed white-flag Palestinian and the disputed buffer zone.

On Saturday, ABC News met with Goldfus in a seemingly post-apocalyptic neighborhood in Khan Younis, where machine guns rattled, explosions thundered and the sounds of tank fire could be heard. Some of the explosions were so powerful that they tore the curtains of the confiscated Palestinian home that the general and his staff have converted into a makeshift headquarters.

Outside the headquarters were a series of arena-sized pools. One was about 60 feet deep and larger than a football field. A month ago it was a multi-acre cemetery. Flanking the destroyed cemetery were the remains of a mosque – half of a dome lying on its side like a sinking ship. Goldfus told ABC News that his troops had excavated most of the cemetery in search of tunnel shafts belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza. The general pointed out where he said tunnel shafts were found, but ABC News was unable to visually verify this due to the depth of the pit.

Asked what his troops do with the bodies when they dig graves in search of tunnel shafts, Goldfus told ABC News: “We'll put them aside.”

Intentionally destroying religious sites such as cemeteries without military necessity violates international law and could constitute war crimes. But Goldfus said he wasn't worried because Hamas had turned the cemetery and adjacent mosque into a “military compound” that had been used “time and time again to attack my forces.”

“I’m not moving a cemetery, I’m moving a military site,” he added.

Asked what he would say to the families of those buried there, the general told ABC News: “I'm very sorry. Your relatives are being used as human shields.”

Last week, British television network ITV reportedly filmed Israeli snipers in Khan Younis gunning down an unarmed Palestinian man carrying a white flag who had recently told the news crew that he was trying to cross the battle lines to get to his family. At the time, Israel claimed the ITV video had been edited and there was no way to find out who fired the shots. However, speaking to ABC News on Saturday, Goldfus appeared to take responsibility for the incident.

“Yes, it was my troops and I am investigating this incident,” he told ABC News. “This is not the way we implement our rules of engagement. No, we don't shoot people who wave white flags. We don’t shoot at civilians.”

When pressed on the fact that Israeli troops had killed civilians in Gaza, the general said: “These are mistakes. It's war.”

Asked whether Israeli soldiers could be prosecuted over the fatal shooting, Goldfus told ABC News: “It depends.”

“We investigate every mistake that is made,” he added.

The general also answered questions about the buffer zone the IDF is establishing in the Gaza Strip along the coastal enclave's border with Israel.

“This is part of the area that is intended to become a buffer zone … to crush Hamas and prevent any entity that attempts to carry out terrorist attacks against our people,” he told ABC News while looking at a table-sized aerial map of the Border between Gaza and Israel.

Goldfus said the buffer zone would create an area within the Gaza Strip that would be under Israeli control.

-Matt Gutman and Sohel Uddin from ABC News