Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the idea that Israel would agree to a ceasefire with Hamas, saying Monday evening that those calling for one are in effect calling for Israel to surrender to terrorism.
“I want to make clear Israel’s position regarding a ceasefire. Just as the United States would not agree to a ceasefire after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, or after the terrorist attack of 9/11, Israel will not agree to a cessation of hostilities with Hamas,” he said in English during a press conference for foreign media.
“After the horrific attacks of October 7, calls for a ceasefire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism, to surrender to barbarism. That will not happen,” he said.
Quoting a verse from the biblical scripture of Ecclesiastes, Netanyahu told the crowd, “There is a time for peace and a time for war.”
“This is a time for war,” he continued. “A war for a common future. Today we draw a line between the forces of civilization and the forces of barbarism. It is a time for everyone to decide where they stand.”
The White House appeared to echo the call, with National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby telling reporters Monday, “We do not believe that a ceasefire is the right answer right now… We do not support a ceasefire at this time.”
Kirby clarifies that the US does, however, support “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting to allow aid to be delivered uninhibited and to allow for the safe passage of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and for the secure transfer of hostages should they be released.
Calling Hamas’s onslaught “the worst savagery our people have seen since the Holocaust,” Netanyahu told the foreign press representatives that “Hamas murdered children in front of their parents, murdered parents in front of their children. They burned people alive, they raped women, they beheaded men, they tortured Holocaust survivors, they kidnapped babies.”
Israel has faced increasing calls for a ceasefire in their war against Hamas in Gaza in recent days, and on Friday, a United Nations resolution calling for a ceasefire with no mention of Hamas passed with an overwhelming majority.
In an apparent reference to the countries pushing Israel to initiate a ceasefire, Netanyahu said: “Israel will stand against the forces of barbarism until victory. I hope and pray that civilized nations everywhere will back this fight.
“Israel’s fight is your fight because if Hamas and Iran’s axis of evil win, you will be their next target,” he continued. “That’s why Israel’s victory will be your victory. But make no mistake, regardless of who stands with Israel, Israel will fight until this battle is won, and Israel will prevail.
Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton chimed in Monday, saying that “People who are calling for a ceasefire now do not understand Hamas. That is not possible.”
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Victory begins with moral clarity, Netanyahu said, in comments on the death toll of Palestinians in Gaza.
“It begins with knowing the difference between good and evil, between right and wrong… It means making a moral distinction between the deliberate murder of the innocent and the unintentional casualties that accompany every legitimate war.”
“As long as Hamas’s use of Palestinian human shields results in the international community blaming Israel, Hamas will continue to use [the practice] as a tool of terror,” he warned. “Hamas will continue to use the basements in Gaza’s hospitals as the command posts of its vast terror tunnel network. It will continue to use mosques as fortified military positions and weapon depots. It will continue to steal fuel and humanitarian assistance from UN facilities.”
At the start of a war cabinet meeting earlier on Monday evening, Netanyahu praised the IDF for making “systemic progress” in its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.
He said that the IDF “has expanded its ground entry into the Gaza Strip,” adding that “it is doing it in measured, very powerful steps, making systematic progress one step at a time.”
Over the weekend, the IDF stepped up its war against Hamas, significantly expanding the scope of its ground activities and killing dozens of Hamas terrorists inside the Gaza Strip.
The war began on October 7 after 2,500 Hamas terrorists burst into Israel by land, air and sea, terrorizing the country’s southern communities, murdering 1,400 people and taking at least 243 hostages, most of them civilians. Among the hostages are young children and the elderly, as well as people with complicated medical needs.
In response, Israel vowed to eradicate the terror group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 and has been targeting all areas where the group operates, while also seeking to minimize civilian casualties.
During the foreign media press conference, Netanyahu was asked whether the high death toll in Gaza indicated that Israel was carrying out “collective punishment against the people of Palestine.”
He replied that “not a single civilian has to die. Hamas has to merely let them go to the safe zone” in southwest Gaza that the IDF created after urging all Gazans to evacuate the northern part of the coastal enclave two weeks ago.
“Hamas is preventing them from leaving, keeping them in the areas of conflict,” Netanyahu added.
The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip has stated that over 8,000 people have died as a result of Israeli airstrikes since October 7. However, the figures issued by the group cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza and Israel, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.
Once more stressing Israel’s determination to minimize civilian casualties, Netanyahu cited a Royal Air Force bombing of a Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen.
“The British pilots missed” the headquarters and hit a children’s hospital nearby, causing the deaths of 84 children, he said. (In fact, the errant strike, in 1945, hit a school.)
“That is not a war crime. That is not something you blamed Britain for doing. That was a legitimate act of war with tragic consequences that accompany such legitimate actions,” he said. “And you didn’t tell the Allies, don’t stamp out Nazism because of such tragic consequences… They knew that the future of our civilization was at stake. Well, I’m telling you right now that the future of our civilization is at stake. We have to win this war. We’ll do it by minimizing civilian casualties. And may we succeed.”
Netanyahu during the press conference also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.
He was also asked whether he had considered resigning in the wake of the October 7 attacks and criticism of what much of the public sees as his failure to protect them.
Rejecting the idea, he told the reporter who had posed the question: “The only thing that I intend to have resign is Hamas. We are going to resign them to the dustbin of history. That’s my goal. That’s my responsibility. That’s what I’m leading the country to do. This is my responsibility now.”
Amy Spiro and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.