Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu..
(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas mulls applying for membership in the International Criminal Court as a way to press charges against Israel for alleged war crimes, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and other world leaders on Wednesday that Hamas was guilty of two types of war crimes.
“Hamas is committing a double war crime by intentionally trying to hit Israeli citizens, and using the local Gaza population as human shields,” Netanyahu said. As a result, Hamas should be held responsible for the unintentional killing of civilians in Gaza, he said.
The prime minister repeated that message in conversations held in Israel on Wednesday as well with German Chancellor Angel Merkel and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
These conversations were part of Netanyahu’s efforts to garner international understanding and support for its actions in Gaza, even as Palestinian casualties – including the numbers of civilians killed unintentionally – is rising.
The prime minister is expected to have more conversations with world leaders on Thursday.
One leader he has not yet spoken to, and indeed has not spoken to for months, is US President Barack Obama.
Obama, in an op-ed to appear on Thursday in the German weekly Die Zeit, called on both sides to show restraint.
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“At this time of danger, everyone involved must protect the innocent and act in a sensible and measured way, not with revenge and retaliation,” Obama wrote.
Netanyahu said in his conversations on Wednesday that no country would tolerate continued rocket fire and attempts to infiltrate its territory from the sea and underground, through tunnels.
Hamas is recognized around the world as a terrorist organization, and the international community should be aggressively condemning the continuous rocket fire from Hamas and other terrorist organizations on Israel, the prime minister said.
Abbas, after an emergency meeting of the Palestinians leadership in Gaza, accused Israel of no less than committing “genocide” against the Palestinians.
Before speaking to the world leaders, Netanyahu – following security deliberations held in Beersheba – said Israel would step up its actions against Hamas and the other terrorist organizations operating from Gaza.
“The operation will expand and continue until the rocket firing on our cities stops, and the quiet returns,” he said on the second day of the military operation.
The prime minister has consistently defined the objectives of the operation in relatively modest terms – to restore the quiet – not, as some are suggesting, to topple Hamas or destroy its rocket infrastructure inside Gaza. Those later objectives would necessitate a ground action, something Netanyahu has said the IDF was prepared for, but which he has not yet ordered.
Following the meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Benny Gantz and OC Southern Command Maj.- Gen. Sammy Turjeman, Netanyahu said that the IDF was prepared for all contingencies.
“Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing on Israeli citizens,” he said. Our army is strong, the home front is firm, and our people are united. That combination is our answer to the terrorist organizations that want to harm us,” he said. “We are all united in the aim of hitting the terrorist organizations and restoring the quiet.
Netanyahu called on the public to continue to heed the instructions of the IDF Home Front Command, saying those instructions “save lives.”
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