Colonel Richard Kemp, the former Commander of the British armed forces in Afghanistan, joined us in the Israel National News - Arutz Sheva studio in Jerusalem today (Thursday) to discuss the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

"Israel's a different country now to the country it was when I arrived previously, which was about two months ago. I found the country in deep shock, and still in shock. But despite that, I think very united, and absolutely resolved to not become victims but to become victors and to deal with this horrific threat that evolved on the 7th of October and making sure it never happens again," Col. Kemp said.

Col. Kemp explained how the laws of war apply to the current war between Israel and Hamas and how, contrary to the claims of many non-military officials, Israel is meticulous in following the laws of war while Hamas brazenly violates them.

"Speaking as not a Jew or an Israeli, one thing that really annoys me is when I hear people like President Biden or Prime Minister Sunak or the Secretary General of Natoo, even, lecturing Israel on the laws of war and how it must minimize civilian casualties," he said. "Israel knows more about that and does it better than anybody else."

He said that the Israelis "really don't need these lectures, which imply that Israel is not adhering to the laws of war, when we all know that in fact, Israel is adhering to the laws of war. It's part of a narrative that's been built up over decades which sees mass demonstrations on the streets of London, in Washington, and other capitals around Europe, deliberately intending to pressure Israel into ceasing its operations. This is the result of very, very long narrative against Israel."

When asked about the challenges posed by Hamas' deliberate use of human shields, going so far as to shoot and kill its own civilians who attempted to flee to the south to escape the fighting, Col. Kemp stated "You have two choices. You can either say: 'The targets we need to kill, in other words, Hamas terrorists, are among the civilian population. So we can't do anything. We just have to let them be.' And they live to fight another day and they live to carry out massacres like they did on the 7th of October."

"Or, we say, 'We have to kill them. We have to deal with them. We have to defend our citizens. And therefore we are going to risk killing innocent civilians. There are no other options. And it's not risking killing innocent civilians, it's going to be killing innocent civilians because that's the way Hamas fights. They hide behind their own civilian population. They embed themselves there. And it's not just that they use them as shields, they actually want the IDF to kill their civilians," he noted.

"The purpose of it is to isolate, to vilify Israel, to delegitimize Israel, and to prevent Israel from defending itself.

He noted that if the force under his command had been held to the same standards many hold Israel to, they would not have been able to achieve victory. "In pretty much every conflict I've been involved in, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Balkans, even, I've been working against people who use human shields, and they use them in the same way as Hamas do; maybe not as sophisticated as Hamas, but nevertheless, they use human shields. And we've never been under the kind of pressure that Israel's under."

"Every operation that you take part in, if you're going to get the enemy, and you have to, because otherwise they're going to get you, then you have to risk killing innocent civilians, unfortunately. And sometimes it happens, you do.

He said that having visited several of the communities of southern Israel which were devasted by Hamas terrorists on October 7, as well as the 43-minute video documenting Hamas' atrocities, he "didn't see a bunch of terrorists just come out of Gaza. What I saw was highly trained, highly skilled, well-organized, well-equipped terrorists, and this didn't come from Gaza. Certainly, some of them would have been trained, and they were certainly directed, by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from Iran. This is an Iranian operation. There's no question about that."

He noted that Russia has benefited "immensely" from the war between Israel and Hamas because it has diverted Western and American attention and weaponry from the war Russian President Vladimir Putin has waged to conquer Ukraine for nearly the last two years.

"I know that Hamas and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, and of course, Iran above all, have a very close relationship with Russia. So it wouldn't at all surprise me if Russia didn't have a role in fomenting this conflict for its own benefit in Ukraine. And of course, even the protests we see in the streets of London, there's no doubt they benefit from Russian money and Russian organization," he said.

Col. Kemp stated that while he has been involved in a number of hostage rescue operations, those were "nothing compared to the challenge the IDF faces" since Hamas and other terrorists are holding about 240 hostages in Gaza. According to him, the two most important factors in rescuing the hostages are intelligence and surprise.

"Both of those are massive challenges. I think if anyone can do it, I would say the IDF can do it. They train or it. They have a very good track record on rescuing hostages. But still, it's going to be an incredibly demanding challenge," he said.

When asked about the intelligence failures in which Israel was caught off-guard by the attack on October 7, he said that he believes "Israel was subjected to a very careful, very deliberate, directed by Iran, deception plan by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to lure the Israeli intelligence apparatus into believing that Hamas did not have any immediate aggressive intent, that they were intending to focus on the reconstruction of the reconstruction and economic development. And unfortunately, that deception plan worked, to the expense of so many people in the border areas around Gaza."

Col. Kemp said that "the IDF can destroy Hamas in Gaza. That means, basically, preventing Hamas from maintaining the level of threat it presents to Israel today. That can be killing the terrorists in very large numbers. Already, many have been killed, including some significant leaders. I hope there are more to come. Or, forcing them out, getting them to lay down their arms, leave the Gaza Strip. And we've already seen evidence of some Hamas terrorists trying to do that. So that's the first thing, and I think it can be achieved. It might be a long process. It might be very costly for Israel as well as Hamas."

"The second element is the leadership, dealing with the leadership of Hamas, which isn't going to go away. They're in Qatar, they're in Turkey, they're elsewhere, we even have Hamas leaders in the UK. Those people have to be dealt with at some point, by some means.

"But even then," he warned, "you're not removing the ideology. The ideology, the hatred of Israel, remains. And whether Hamas attempts to regrow or something places it, that will be there."

"I believe the IDF will have to maintain security control over Gaza for the indefinite future," he stated. "Possibly forever, but certainly for the foreseeable future. And that might mean having a permanent IDF presence in Gaza as it exists in Judea and Samaria. Or it might mean leaving and returning and maybe creating some kind of strong buffer zone inside the border between Israel and Gaza. But either way, it's gonna be in security terms Israel's problem for a very long time."

He said that Israel should ignore international calls for a ceasefire now. "What does a ceasefire mean? It doesn't mean that Hamas is going to put their hands up and lay their weapons down and surrender. It doesn't mean that there's gonna be some kind of natural peace in Gaza. What it means that the IDF withdraws to its borders and allows Hamas and the other terrorists in Gaza to rebuild, reconstitute, and present again the same threats. So a ceasefire equals surrender by Israel. And those people who are calling for ceasefire, they want Israel to surrender. They do not want Israel to deal with Hamas as it has to."

He stated that Israel will sooner or later have to deal with the threat posed by the Hezbollah terrorist organization in the north, which has launched repeated attacks against Israel over the last month. "You cannot, any longer, in my opinion, have a gun to your head from the north. As you're dealing with the gun to your head from the south, you've got to deal with the one in the north at some point."

"For me, as an outsider, I would say it's much better to deal with Hezbollah before they attack [in full force]. They're a very clear threat. Israel would be legally justified in carrying out - it wouldn't exactly be a preemptive attack cause they're being attacked, but it would be similar to a preemptive attack before [Hezbollah] launches and starts killing Israelis in large numbers, which I think is very possible," he said.