Bennett Calls on Hamas 'Cowards' to Stop Using Human Shields
Economics Minister Naftali Bennett rejected criticism from leftist NGOs over Israel's military operation against terrorist rocket fire from Gaza, and said the moment Hamas decided to invest in improving the lives of the people of Gaza instead of attacking Israel, the Jewish state would be first in line to help.
In an interview with the BBC's Gaza correspondent, Bennett was asked "what it would take" for Israel to end Operation Protective Edge. His answer was simple, and echoed statements by other senior officials, including Prime Minister Netanyahu: "for Hamas to stop shooting rockets and missiles at Israel... they just need to stop... and this whole thing will go away."
"Hamas has decided to export misery and terror on its own citizens and it's shooting rockets across Israel," he continued, noting that his own infant children were currently being forced to run to bomb shelters in central Israel. "If they decide to stop and disarm the whole thing will stop within one second."
Responding to criticism over the civilian death toll in Gaza as a result of IDF strikes, the Jewish Home party leader said that Hamas was responsible for those deaths given its use of human shields in violation of international law.
"Hamas is killing its own children and women" by "placing missile launchers within schools, within hospitals and within homes," he said.
"It's putting its own women and children as human shields and by doing that it's killing its own people."
He called on the Islamist group to "stop that cowardly and cynical action of hiding missile launchers within women and children and shooting at my home."
Bennett also dismissed criticism from leftist "human rights" groups, retorting that "those human rights groups criticize Israel whatever we do -even if we hand out chocolate they'll criticize us. They're irrelevant."
What was relevant, he continued, was the fact that after Israel left Gaza completely in 2005 amid promises that the Palestinian Authority would take the opportunity to build a peaceful, stable "Singapore of the Middle East", it instead witnessed a rapid takeover by Hamas and the establishment of "a fortress of terror."
"If at any moment Hamas decides that they want to invest their money in building their economy... in creating a prosperous country down there we'll give them all the backing. They have to decide... do you want to fight or create peace?"
Hamas rejected a ceasefire proposal brokered by Egypt Tuesday morning, choosing instead to fire more than 80 rockets into southern and central Israel and provoking international condemnation. After several hours of restraint, the IDF resumed its airstrikes on Gaza Tuesday afternoon.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pointed out earlier in the day that a Hamas rejection of the ceasefire would leave Israel with no choice but to continue and expand its military operation. He called on "responsible members of the international community" to offer Israel their "full support" as it exercised its "right to self-defense."