Addressing the international community for the first time since pulling IDF soldiers out of Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the IDF for making Israel safer and urged reporters to “show the truth” about Hamas.
Regarding Israel’s decision to enter Gaza, the prime minister said it would be a “moral mistake” as well as a practical one had Israel not taken action to protect its citizens from terrorists operating in the Gaza Strip.
Not acting would present “an enormous victory for terrorists everywhere,” Netanyahu said. Not acting, according to the prime minister, would have been “disproportionate” and he would not allow the terrorists “to get our people killed.”
“What’s happening now is not only a test for Israel but for the international community, for the civilized world itself, for how it is to defend itself,” he added.
Netanyahu placed the blame of civilian casualties in Gaza on Hamas, who actively pursued a policy of using civilians as human shields. The prime minister made clear that Operation Protective Edge was not a siege on the people of Gaza but on its rulers, namely Hamas, and other terror organizations.
“The people of Gaza are not our enemy. Our enemy is Hamas; our enemy are the other terrorist organizations trying to kill our people,” he said. “The tragedy of Gaza is that it is ruled by Hamas – a tyrannical and fanatical terror group that relishes civilian casualties.”
Israel will not allow terrorists “fight from civilian areas with impunity”, Netanyahu warned.
Netanyahu slammed Hamas for waiting three weeks to accept an Egyptian ceasefire which Israel had previously agreed to. Had Hamas accepted the proposal, hundreds of lives could have been saved in Gaza.
“Israel accepted and Hamas rejected the Egyptian ceasefire proposal of July 15th. At that time, the conflict had claimed some 185 lives. Only on Monday night did Hamas finally agree to that very same proposal, which went into effect yesterday morning,” he said.
“Every civilian casualty is a tragedy. A tragedy of Hamas’s own working. I think the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel put it best when he said, Hamas is engaging in child sacrifice. And this is something for which it must be held accountable. For the sake of all our children, it must not be allowed to get away with this,” Netanyahu explained.
Addressing international journalists who are now leaving Gaza, Netanyahu pointed out that “They [Hamas] want civilian casualties. They use them as PR fodder.” Increasing reports out of Gaza indicate that Hamas would threaten and bully those journalists who dared speak the truth in what Netanyahu called a Hamas censorship.
While the 72-hour ceasefire brokered by Egypt, which began on Tuesday morning, has held, a Hamas official has denied reports that the Gaza-based terror group is looking to extend the ceasefire.
Cairo-based Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh announced on Wednesday night that “there is no agreement on the extension of the truce.”
Speaking to US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that Hamas’s announcement to not resume negotiations is “coercive” and that “Israel will take this into account and is prepared for any eventuality.”