Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at a news conference in Jerusalem today said that while Israel “deeply regrets every civilian casualty” every civilian loss is “a tragedy of Hamas’ making.” He also accused Hamas of engaging in “child sacrifice” and stated that Hamas wants civilian casualties in Gaza to use as “PR functions.” According to Netanyahu, Hamas is counting on Israel to respond with force so that Israel can be “blamed for it.” With apparent sadness, he also reminded the world that the people of Gaza are not the enemies of Israel; the terrorist organization Hamas is the enemy.
The latest 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas began on Tuesday and Egyptian mediators have been negotiating with Israeli and Palestinian representatives. The United States and other countries have been highly critical of the number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip and in the news conference, Netanyahu asked the question: “Can we accept a situation where the terrorists can be exonerated while the victims are accused?” in response to the criticism.
Netanyahu further stated that the response to Hamas’ use of civilians as “human shields” and Israel’s right to defend herself is an issue the world community must examine. The situation is a “test for the civilized world” in how it will respond to, or negotiate with terrorists who, if allowed to fire upon Israel without repercussions, would encourage terrorists around the world, which would only result in the deaths of more civilians.
Netanyahu stated that if Hamas had agreed to the initial ceasefire, “90 percent of the civilian deaths could have been avoided.” In addition Netanyahu described how Hamas has “adopted a strategy that abuses civilians” while deliberately increasing the death toll by firing rockets from schools, hospitals and urban neighborhoods. During the conference, a video was shown which graphically illustrated his point.
In the press conference, Netanyahu stated that while many people claim to support Israel’s right to defend itself, at the same time, they “refuse to let Israel experience that right.” According to Netanyahu, this perspective is a “moral and operational mistake” which will validate Hamas’ use of human shields and hand an “enormous victory to terrorists everywhere.”
Netanyahu has previously made it clear that the purpose of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge (OPE) was to take out Hamas’ strategic tunnels, which have been used by the terrorist organization to kidnap and murder Israeli citizens. In addition, OPE sought to put a stop to the aggressive launching of rockets and to demilitarize Gaza in order to provide some sense of peace for the people of Israel.
In addition to the cost of lives on both sides of the hostilities and the significant loss of infrastructure, Israeli defense officials have estimated the cost of OPE to already be at $2.3 billion. Netanyahu made it clear in his press conference today that not only does he believe that Israel’s response to Hamas’ aggression is justified and in proportion to Hamas’ actions, but also that he will continue to protect the citizens of Israel and that he fully blames Hamas for the tragic loss of life that has occurred in Gaza.
By Alana Marie Burke