Finance Minister Lapid: Hamas is Holding Gazan Civilians Hostage

Minister Yair Lapid demands 'demilitarization' of Gaza, says Israel can afford a long-term military operation to defeat Hamas.

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In an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday Finance Minister Yair Lapid said that Hamas is holding the citizens of Gaza "hostage", and that Israel demands nothing less than a demilitarization of the Gaza Strip to force an end to attacks on Israeli civilians.

"No other country on earth" would tolerate thousands of rockets being fired indiscriminately on its civilian population, said the Yesh Atid party leader, who went on to point out that despite that Israel had accepted three separate ceasefire proposals - all of which had been rejected by Hamas.

Lapid also addressed tensions with the White House, after US Secretary of State was roundly criticized in Israel for responding to Hamas's rejection of a truce by working with Hamas's allies to offer an alternative which stunned Israeli observers, as it called on Israel to essentially give in to all of the Islamist group's demands.

While the Israeli media had savaged Kerry for his moves, "no one within the Israeli government is accusing Secretary Kerry of betraying Israel," Lapid assured.

The Finance Minister added that in his view Israel could certainly afford a "prolonged operation", as promised by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but stressed that "we have no beef with the citizens of Gaza... only with Hamas that is a terror organization that is holding them hostage.

He further accused Hamas of targeting Israeli women and children, noting that many of the dozens of "terror tunnels" unearthed from Gaza into Israel led "specifically to kindergartens or (communal) dining rooms... trying to kill Israeli women and children" in kibbutzim bordering Gaza.