Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel was pursuing a policy of deterring the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers from launching attacks but did not rule out a further escalation, including “conquering” the Palestinian enclave.
Netanyahu gave a briefing to some 70 foreign diplomats at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, where he filled them in on the situation after over a week of fighting that has seen Gaza terror groups rain rockets down on Israel, which has responded with pounding airstrikes on Gaza.
There is increasing international pressure for the two sides to agree, via mediators, on a ceasefire.
Speaking of Gaza’s rulers, the Hamas terror group, which has led the rocket attacks, Netanyahu said, “You can either conquer them — and that’s always an open possibility — or you can deter them.”
“We are engaged right now in forceful deterrence, but I have to say, we are not ruling out anything,” the prime minister said.
Asked how much longer the operation will go on, Netanyahu said he could not give an exact timeframe for when it would end.
“We aren’t standing with a stopwatch. We are concerned with the objectives of the operation,” Netanyahu said.
“Previous operations lasted a long time, so it is not possible to set a timeframe,” he said in the closed-door session.
Since the violence erupted last Monday, Israel has streamed military forces and assets to the Gaza border area, including tanks, artillery, and infantry units.
Among those who attended the briefing were diplomats from the US, the European Union, Russia, China, India, Germany, Austria, Australia, Japan, the UK, Brazil, Canada, and Italy.
The prime minister accused the Palestinians of provoking the current round of fighting, saying Israel hoped to restore quiet “quickly” and was doing everything it could to avoid civilian casualties. He screened a video clip that showed an airstrike being called off at the last minute because there were children in the area.
Hamas, he said, “targets civilians while hiding behind civilians using them as human shields. This is the problem that we face — because Hamas is embedded deeply in civilian areas, because it uses civilian human shields. Democracies have a choice. They can say there is nothing we can do. We will absorb attacks against our cities. We can do that or we can level the cities. In World War II, when western cities, specifically London and some British cities, were targeted this way by thousands of rockets, their response was to level cities.”
Added Netanyahu: “I admire Winston Churchill. I think he was one of the greatest leaders in modern history. I don’t criticize him for anything. I think he did the right thing under those circumstances. But this is not our response to the firing of thousands of rockets on our cities. We do something different. We try to target those who target us with great precision.”
“That is not a surgical operation as it is. Even in a surgical room in a hospital, you don’t have the ability to prevent collateral damage around an infected tissue. Even then you can’t. Certainly in a military operation you cannot.”
Nonetheless, he added, “There is no army in the world that does more than the Israeli army, in the Israeli security services, in Israeli intelligence to prevent collateral damage. To have Israel criticized for that is absurd. Not only is absurd and unjust and untrue, it does enormous damage to democracies that are fighting this kind of evil. It says you cannot protect yourself.
“Instead of having the perpetrators who commit double war crimes, who are hiding behind civilians and firing on civilians, not having them criticized but having you criticized is the height of hypocrisy and stupidity. What that does is in fact encourage the terrorists. It gives support, it gives encouragement to the terrorists and that is something that is bad for each one of us. I’m not shy about saying it openly, I think you should support Israel strongly because this is not merely a question of Israel’s security; it’s a question of our common security and our common interests in the Middle East,” he said.
During the briefing, the PMO said later, “Netanyahu presented the ambassadors with documentation of IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as the location of stockpiles of missiles, rockets, terrorist buildings, command centers and many terrorist infrastructures. Also presented were videos of firing at citizens of the State of Israel and misfiring by the terrorist organizations, which endangers the residents of the Gaza Strip. Israeli ambassadors around the world also participated in the briefing via Zoom.”
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also spoke at the briefing.
He said that Israel does not see the Palestinian people as an enemy and that it differentiates between the civilian population and Hamas members whom it sees as terrorists. He noted that Israel allowed humanitarian aid into Gaza during the fighting but Hamas fired at the border crossing where the shipment was entering Gaza, wounding a soldier involved in the transfer of the aid and preventing delivery.
Ashkenazi also warned that claims brought by the Palestinians against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague prevent the building of trust between the two sides that would help advance regional development.
Israel is assessing whether conditions are right to halt the military campaign, according to an Israeli military source quoted by the Kan public broadcaster.
“We are looking at when is the right moment for a ceasefire,” said the source on condition of anonymity.
The source added that Israel is evaluating whether its objective of degrading the capabilities of Gaza’s Hamas rulers has been achieved and “whether Hamas understands the message” that its rocket barrages toward Israel cannot recur.
Hamas and other Gaza terror groups have launched nearly 3,700 rockets at Israel since May 10, at times forcing people living by Gaza into bomb shelters around the clock.
Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, have been killed in rocket fire, and hundreds have been injured over the past ten days.
As the sides entered their 10th day of fighting on Wednesday, Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry updated the death toll in the Strip to 217, including more than 63 minors. It was not immediately clear if the ministry tally included all of those killed or if there were Hamas operatives not included in the count.
According to the IDF, more than 120 of those killed were members of Hamas and over 25 were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as of Monday night.
HD Editor’s Note: Why Is This News Biblically Relevant?
Hal Lindsey, in his recent article, “Blaming The Victim,” discussed the deep rooted anti-Israel bias displayed by the international community. Why would global leaders condemn the Jewish State as they are being attacked by terrorists?
On May 10th, amid hundreds of rocket attacks against Jerusalem, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the following statement. “We call on the international community to condemn the rocket fire and Palestinian terrorism targeting Israeli citizens in the strongest manner, as well as to support Israel’s right of self-defense.”
Why should they even have to make a statement? If any other country received a massive, unprovoked rocket attack aimed at its civilian population, the world would be outraged. Leaders would be stepping all over one another in their rush to condemn such barbarity.
But in this case, the world mostly condemns Israel. Some nations and international organizations have given tepid acknowledgement of Israel’s right to defend its civilian population. But they always call on Israel to “show restraint.” None of them — not one other nation — would show restraint in its response to such a hideous attack on the civilians of its national capital. They would attack with ferocity. Israel, on the other, does show restraint, often compromising their military response in order to avoid civilian casualties. Remember that Hamas loves to put its military operations in the middle of civilian population centers.
Israel’s critics would have us believe that this started with Israeli “interference” on the Temple Mount. US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, tweeted, “Al Aqsa… [is] a sacred site for Muslims. This is equivalent to attacking the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, or the Temple Mount for Jews.”
But, for several reasons, that makes no sense. Muslims frequently attack Jews on the Temple Mount. It’s a regular thing. Muslim authorities and Palestinian police forbid Jews to pray on their most sacred ground, and that’s been going on for decades. Even after taking back East Jerusalem during the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel put their holiest site, the Temple Mount, in the control of Muslims. They did it in the interest of peace.
In anticipation of “Jerusalem Day,” Palestinians gathered at the site, collecting rocks, bottles, Molotov cocktails, and other makeshift weapons. When they started to riot, Israeli police entered the area. Today, Muslims use this “sacred site” as a place from which to plan and launch violent attacks on Israeli civilians and police.
The Bible says that a time is coming in which all the nation of the world will be gathered against the nation of Israel and their capital, Jerusalem. World leaders will do this, we are told, at their own peril. Terry James outlined this in his recent article:
The powers that be in world geopolitics are involved in tampering with things that are guaranteed to injure them and the entire world of nation-states. This we know from the very Word of God, who does not slumber or sleep when it comes to His chosen nation, Israel:
Zechariah 12:1-3 KJV – “The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.”
If God’s Word is true—and it is—then we should witness the ramping up of this global power against this nation, chosen by God as a prototype nation in His dealing with all of his creation called man. Satan fuels the hatred that is scheduled to develop—already is developing—to energize the human powers and principalities as they sip from that “trembling cup” and try to lift that “burdensome stone” the prophet Zechariah was directed to foretell. It all means that our redemption is drawing very near indeed! (Luke 21:28)