Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon criticized UK Foreign Secretary William Hague Sunday for advising Israel against launching a ground operation into Gaza, saying that Jerusalem would not determine how to best defend citizens’ lives based on the opinion of foreign leaders.
“We expect our allies to support us [when we] use all tools available in order to defend our people. To say the least, we don’t like these kinds of reservations,” Ya’alon said.
Earlier on Sunday, Hague had said that sending ground troops into Gaza, and the increased number of casualties that would inevitably follow, would cost Israel dearly in terms of public opinion and Western support.
“A ground invasion is much more difficult for the international community to sympathize with or support — including the United Kingdom,” Hague told SkyNews.
US President Barack Obama likewise said that it would be “preferable” if a solution to the conflict could be found “without a ramping-up of military activity in Gaza.”
“Regarding a ceasefire: We don’t feel like we are under pressure,” Ya’alon said. “Regarding a ground operation, we feel like we should have the freedom of operation in order to be able to defend our country without any reservations. But we don’t think we are under pressure.”
Speaking to foreign journalists in Jerusalem, Ya’alon also said that Israel considers all Hamas officials legitimate targets for assassination.
Earlier on Sunday, the Israeli Air Force had killed Yihya Abiya, the commander of Hamas’s rocket firing brigades, in Gaza City.
“Any Hamas leader [or] commander might be targeted by us as we consider all of them responsible for the terror attacks, the rocket launching against us,” said Ya’alon, who is also strategic affairs minister and a former IDF chief of staff.
The Israeli government was so far “satisfied” with the course of Operation Pillar of Defense, Ya’alon claimed, adding that the IDF was ready for a ground operation if it was needed to stop rockets from terrorizing Israeli citizens in the country’s south. “We should be ready to deploy whatever is needed to reach peace and quiet. So far we tried to achieve this by surgical airstrikes, but we should be ready to deploy more troops in different types of operations in order to reach this goal.”
Ya’alon also said that Operation Pillar of Defense was not launched to remove Hamas from power in Gaza. “We don’t deal anyhow in toppling an enemy. This is not our policy. It’s up to the Palestinians to decide who’s going to govern them. If they decided to have Hamas in the Gaza Strip, that’s up to them. As long as Hamas offends the liberty of our civilians, we don’t have any choice but to hit them back,” he added.