In his address, Netanyahu emphasized the government's attempt to not involve civilians in the fighting, and said that he had previously and currently declined to approve similar targeted killings by the IDF for fear of collateral and civilian damage.
He then went on to accuse the Arab MKs of encouraging terrorism with the aim of hurting civilians.
The MKs responded loudly and angrily, accusing him of lying and agitating against them. During the commotion, Joint List faction leader MK Ahmad Tibi was escorted out of the plenary under the order of Kneset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud).
"If we are attacking prematurely and without warning, that is a war crime," Netanyahu said with sarcasm. "The real war crime is what these terrorists are doing in Gaza – their first goal is hurting civilians and using them as human shields. You are sanctifying their war crimes," Netanyahu told the Arab MKs.
"Yesterday I've heard of a protest supporting (Gaza), where a female MK asked for us to be branded as war criminals, this is unacceptable," added Netanyahu.
The prime minister said that the IDF is doing what no other army in the world is or has tried - surgically operating in an unprecdented way to maximize strikes on terrorists and minimize civilian casualties.
"The IDF's actions two days ago (the assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata) will be the subject of studies in the future, and is already being studied by other militaries around the world in an effort to achive similar results," added Netanyahu.
The prime minister also claimed that during the 2014 war in Gaza, the Joint List's Ra'am-Ta'al faction requested that the attorney general begin investigating alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by him, then-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Gantz and Ya'alon now head the Blue and White party).
"Unfortunately, this kind of behavior is repeated again and again by various elements," Netanyahu said. "In my opinion, this serves as a dual threat – to the soldiers and commanders of the IDF, who make unprecedented efforts to not hurt civilians, and by threatening the basic human principles that we must all unite and let the fight against terrorism continue."
Joint List MK Ofer Cassif walked out of the plenum in protest, saying later that: "Netanyahu is not sufficed with starving, killing and destruction in Gaza. Today he rubbed salt into the wound and lied and agitated in order to justify himself. The man who is sending an army to bomb a blockaded city, saying that we sympathize with terrorists? We exited (the plenum) because it was pointless to stay; even Netanyahu doesn't believe what he says anymore," said Cassif.
The shouting match between Netanyahu and the Arab MKs came following a report of three civilian deaths in Gaza in an IDF airstrike against a terrorist rocket squad in eastern Gaza. All three were from the same family and one of the fatalities was a child.
As of now, it seems the family were not involved with the rocket squad and their deaths could lead to further pressure on Hamas to join Islamic jihad in attacking Israel.
The IDF been consistently implementing direct airstrikes against specific targets, in order to discourage Hamas from joining the latest round of rocket attacks.