Ex-Mossad chief: Israel should not bow to global pressure to end Gaza siege

Yossi Cohen says world doesn’t understand that civilians in Strip also ‘took part in abominable murders of children, babies and women’; says water, basics should be allowed in

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen speaks at a conference of the Makor Rishon newspaper at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, February 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90/ File)
Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen speaks at a conference of the Makor Rishon newspaper at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, February 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90/ File)

Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen said Monday that Israel should not lift its siege on the Gaza Strip even as it faces a wave of international pressure to allow various goods into the enclave.

“In order for us to be able to [achieve our military goals] in Gaza, we need abilities and we need time,” Cohen told Kan public radio. “The element of time is critical — right now Gaza is under siege… and I have said we should not ‘blink’ on that.”

Cohen said he views the government’s decision on Sunday to restart water flow to the southern part of the Strip as “blinking… if it’s due to international pressure.”

“International pressure doesn’t understand that civilians from Gaza, civilians, not just Hamas terrorists… took part in the abominable murders of children, babies and women.”

Many Gazans, seemingly civilians, were seen in videos from the October 7 assault rushing through the border fence after the first wave of terrorist attackers had come through, taking part in looting and other activities near the border and within Israeli communities. There have been some reports that they too joined in murderous attacks on Israelis, though Jerusalem has not said so officially thus far.

The former Mossad chief said that the government and the military must take “the most practical approach to defeating Hamas rule,” adding that “the previous state of affairs will never return.”

In order for that to happen, he said, “We need time, in order for it to be completed — and so that we can avoid dramatic humanitarian damage, we’re trying to evacuate those areas,” he added, referring to the IDF’s call for Gazan civilians to move from the northern part of the Strip to the south ahead of a ground offensive.

Israel must manage the evacuations within Gaza and its approach to the civilian population carefully, he said, “so that the diplomatic hourglass does not run out before the State of Israel declares that Hamas and its rule has been destroyed.”

A convoy of trucks carrying aid supplies for Gaza from Egypt waits on the main Ismailia desert road, about 300 kilometers east of the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip, on the way to the Rafah crossing on October 16, 2023. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Cohen said he was not in principle opposed to water, medical supplies and basic food entering Gaza through its Rafah crossing with Egypt — but not fuel, cement or any construction materials.

He said the fact that Israel had for years allowed the entry of such supplies had obviously been a mistake, as it had allowed Hamas to build up its infrastructure and strengthen its hold on the Strip, ultimately allowing it to carry out its murderous rampage in southern Israel.

Cohen said nobody could guarantee that any materials entering Gaza would not be hijacked by Hamas, repeating: “Don’t blink on the siege — except for basic human supplies.”

On Sunday, Israel said it was restarting the supply of water to parts of the Gaza Strip after shutting it off following the Hamas terrorist infiltration, in which over 1,300 Israelis were killed, the vast majority of them civilians, most of them gunned down in their homes or while attending a music festival.

Energy Minister Israel Katz said water would begin to flow again to the southern portion of the narrow enclave — where Israel has urged residents to flee to in recent days.

“The decision to restart water to the south of the Gaza Strip was agreed upon between Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and US President [Joe] Biden, and will push the civilian population to the southern [part of the] Strip,” Katz said.

A man attatches a bucket of water to a hook to refill a water tank at a home in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern of Gaza Strip on Octobers 15, 2023. (Mohammed ABED / AFP)

Last week, Katz had vowed to not turn on any water or electricity to Gaza until the approximately 200 hostages being held by Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been freed.

“Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electrical switch will be turned on, no water pump will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home,” Katz posted on X on Thursday. “Humanitarianism for humanitarianism. And no one can preach morality to us.”

In normal times, the coastal enclave relies on Israel for one-third of all available drinking water, the territory’s water authority said.

Its other water sources include desalination plants in the Mediterranean Sea and a subterranean aquifer, drained and damaged from years of overuse. When Israel severed electricity to Gaza, the desalination plants all shut down. So did the wastewater treatment stations.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: