Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Monday that “there’s hope” for a ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, but that he doesn’t know if it will happen under the current conditions.
Netanyahu also blamed the terror group for “the cruelest, most grotesque war that I’ve ever seen.”
“There’s one side that is clearly bent on escalation and there’s one side, Israel, that is defending its people as any country would under similar circumstances,” he said in an interview Monday with Fox News.
Netanyahu said that Israel had already accepted an Egyptian ceasefire offer but “in the Middle East it takes two to tango, sometimes three and maybe four,” in an apparent reference to the mediation efforts of Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
The same ceasefire was rejected by Hamas last Wednesday.
Asked about the rising number of Palestinian civilian casualties, which reportedly is in the hundreds, Netanyahu said any operation dealing with terrorists who operate from within a civilian population will cause civilian casualties.
“There are some in the West who tell us, we support Israel’s right to defend itself… as long as you don’t exercise that right,” the premier declared. “Well what else could we do, what would you do… if 80 percent of your people were in bomb shelters?”
“While we try to avoid Palestinian civilian [deaths], Hamas wants Palestinian civilian [deaths]; the more the better, so they can give you telegenic fodder,” he said. “Not only does Hamas target civilians, ours, and hide behind civilians, theirs, it actually wants to pile up as many civilian deaths as possible.”
Operation Protective Edge began on July 8 with the aim of stemming rocket fire by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza aimed at Israel’s towns and cities, restoring sustained security for Israel, and setting back Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure. After several days of intensive airstrikes, during which terrorists fired rockets across the length of Israel as far north as Haifa, the IDF launched a ground operation last week, much of which has focused on tackling a network of “attack tunnels” that Hamas has dug under the Israeli border. Six Israeli soldiers have been killed in attacks launched from those tunnels, and 20 Hamas terrorists have been killed.
Twenty-seven Israeli soldiers have died in all during the ground campaign.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.