Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel opened up a humanitarian field hospital on the edge of Gaza and “Hamas doesn’t let the people come there.” “They’re hiding rockets in hospitals; they’re hiding arms in hospitals; they’re shooting from hospitals. So they just don’t care,” he said, blaming Hamas for trying to “pile up the bodies” of its own Palestinian people to generate sympathy while it fires more rockets into Israel.
In an interview with NBC News’ Brian Williams, Netanyahu said that Israel had no choice but to defend itself and said Hamas is culpable for mounting civilian casualties. “They just don’t care. It’s important to make that clear. They are responsible for all the civilian deaths, which we seek to minimize.” More than 500 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting.
On Sunday, in an interview with CNN and BBC to outline Israel’s operation’s goals of destroying terror tunnels, Netanyahu said that Israel asked the residents of Shejaia, a Hamas stronghold in Gaza city, in various different ways to leave the area, but Hamas told them to stay and serve as “human shields.” “Hamas wants you to die, don’t die for Hamas,” he told the Gazeans.
He called on the residents to leave, saying Israel – unlike Hamas – had no desire to harm them.
They [Hamas] have taken billions of dollars. Instead of building kindergartens with it, they’re building tunnels, concrete tunnels to blow up our kindergartens.
“I agreed to three different calls for ceasefires. We kept them even though Hamas kept firing and they violated every one of those ceasefire calls: the Egyptian ceasefire, the UN ceasefire, the Red Cross ceasefire. We kept them, they broke them,” he added.
The Prime Minister reiterated that the goal of Operation Protective Edge is “to restore quiet and security for the people of Israel for a significant period of time”. “We will take whatever action is necessary to achieve that goal.”
“What would you do if American cities, where you’re sitting now, Brian, would be rocketed, would absorb hundreds of rockets?” Netanyahu said. “You’d say to your leader, ‘A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.’ And a country’s got to do what a country’s got to do. We have to defend ourselves.”
Netanyahu also said that the current operation would continue until quiet is restored, and that after restoring the quiet, Israel will work with the international community to demilitarize Gaza.
Seven Israeli soldiers were killed overnight and early Monday battling Hamas on the Israeli side of the border and inside Gaza, the IDF announced on Monday evening.
Four of them were killed during a pre-dawn tunnel infiltration into southern Israel in which Hamas terrorists planned to attack kibbutz Nir Am, military sources said.
The deaths bring the IDF toll since the launch of Israel’s ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza last Thursday night to 25.
The toll is greater than the number of soldiers who died in the two previous major Israeli efforts to thwart Hamas terrorism in 2008-2009 and 2012.
Four of the seven were killed by a rocket-propelled grenade, fired by Hamas gunmen who emerged from a tunnel dug from Gaza into Israel near Kibbutz Nir Am. The Hamas cell, clad in IDF uniforms, emerged from the tunnel, and waited for an approaching IDF jeep before opening fire, killing the IDF officer and the three other soldiers in the vehicle.
Residents of Kibbutz Nir Am were told to stay in their homes while the IDF tackled the terrorist cell.
Troops from the Nahal Brigade converged and killed 10 of the Hamas gunmen. Two of the gunmen may have escaped back into Gaza.
Part of the incident was filmed in footage later released by the IDF.
“We paid a heavy price, but we averted a grave disaster,” said Sami Turgeman, the general in charge of the IDF’s Southern Command. “There is no Iron Dome protection against tunnel infiltration.”
The tunnel infiltration early Monday involved two groups of Hamas gunmen who surfaced shortly after six in the morning. Apart from the terror cell that emerged near Nir Am, the second cell, also clad in what looked like standard IDF military gear, emerged near Erez, on Israeli territory, several kilometres northeast of the Gaza city of Beit Hanoun. Surveillance soldiers spotted the infiltrators and summoned an aircraft to the area, the army said. The aircraft opened fire, killing the gunmen. No Israelis were hurt in the battle.
“My understanding is that the Shin Bet security service provided an alert,” Lt. Col. Peter Lerner of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said of both cross-border attacks.
The squad that surfaced near Nir Am emerged from either a separate tunnel or a more south-easterly branch of the same one and was not immediately detected.
Military sources said Monday night that Hamas was trying to utilize the “attack tunnels” it had spent years building before the IDF discovered them and blew them up. They said some 18 of the sophisticated tunnels had been discovered since the ground offensive began on Thursday.