Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met on Thursday met with International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer, who is visiting the region.
The two discussed the recent Israeli operation in Gaza, and Netanyahu stressed that Israel regretted any civilian deaths in the conflict. At the same time he stressed that Hamas was responsible for any civilian deaths due to its use of civilians as human shields.
"You know, every one of these civilian deaths is a tragedy; we regret every single one. We do not target a single civilian,” Netanyahu told Maurer. “And when we met here a year ago, I said to you that Hamas is committing a double war crime: It is both targeting civilians and hiding behind civilians, including UN facilities which are not only rocket storage sites, but rocket launching sites and mortar launching sites.”
“So Israel has every right to defend itself, and we are obeying the rules of war, the international code. And those who are responsible for all these tragic civilian deaths are Hamas and Hamas alone," he stressed.
Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that Israel makes every effort to aid civilian non-combatants in Gaza.
"You may know, we’ve put in about 2,000 trucks during the fighting, during the humanitarian ceasefires which we kept and Hamas violated. We’ve opened a field hospital which Hamas – right next to Gaza in order to assist the wounded, the Palestinian wounded. Hamas prevents people from coming in.”
He continued, “We’re fixing fuel lines, electricity lines for Gaza during the fighting, water supply – during the fighting, as best as we can. Hamas has been the one that’s been deliberately stopping that, so it’s actually a triple thing that they’re doing. They’re not only firing on our civilians, not only hiding behind their civilians and accruing as much civilian deaths as they can pile up, because that’s what they want for the PR game against Israel, but also I think that they've done something else and that's to prevent and refuse humanitarian assistance that Israel itself offered for their own people.”
“And I think when you put it all together, you understand that there is a deliberate strategy here and that is to have Hamas – Hamas – inflict as much civilian damage as they can on their own people as part of a deliberate strategy to try to have Israel accused in international public opinion,” said Netanyahu.
“Now, if international law and the international code basically surrenders to this policy and to this tactic, what it means is that terrorists that are embedded in dense urban populations are firing rockets at neighboring countries, democracies like Israel, and then get Israel or the democracies to be accused when it takes legitimate action against them, that means that democracies and the law-abiding states are absolutely defenseless,” he told Maurer.
“What is at stake here is not merely Israel's ability and legitimate right of self-defense; it's the ability of all civilized countries and all democracies to defend themselves because this test case is not only about Israel. What happens here will happen for everyone. Now it may seem farfetched to you, but it's not. This will be everywhere, everywhere you have radicalized Islamic terrorist communities and movements, you will have this phenomenon. The issue here is not merely Israel's right of self-defense, but the right of self-defense of all civilized countries against this barbarism," Netanyahu concluded.