Peres, an Israeli politician who commands great respect throughout the world, was asked about the criticism being leveled at Israel for its Gaza offensive, Operation Cast Lead, especially in regards to criticism of it being a disproportionate use of force.
"To those who protesting against Israel I ask – where were you for eight years when the Gaza vicinity communities and the south were being shelled non stop? Why didn’t we hear you then?"
Peres visiting the hospital Monday morning (Photo: Ronen Medzini)
When he visited Eitan Kariti, a Givati soldier who was wounded by a bullet to his leg, the president said, "I don't know if I trust the observers. I trust one thing only – on the blow that you, the soldiers, dealt to one of the least humane organizations in the world."
According to the president, even though Hamas leaders are claiming victory, the victory is Israel's. "Terrorist organizations are boasting, and this is what we expected. But the victory is all ours. Even Nasrallah claims that he won, but ever since he is all talk. He says that their forces have increased threefold. He sits and talks, but he is not going to fight. One could book him to give performances."
Just minutes before Peres entered Kariti's room, the soldier admit that he is honored by the visit, but that, in his opinion, the battle objectives were not achieved, "The first thing we wanted to achieve is the release of Gilad Shalit, and, of course, and end to the rockets. In my opinion, we didn't achieve what we wanted."
Kariti added that in the days before going into Gaza, he understood the weightiness of the operation, "We heard a siren and we saw the panic on the faces of the southern residents and understood how much it is essential. As a resident of the center, I am not usually exposed to that, but now I understand the southerners. It's really difficult."
'You behaved wonderfully'
The president also visited the soldier Mor Shaked, who was also wounded by a bullet to the leg. Peres asked about the circumstances of how he was wounded, and Shaked described for the president how it happened.
Peres responded, "Going into a residential area is like going into hell, but in terms of the results and the achievements this is a miracle. You behaved wonderfully. We could see that you were convinced of what you were doing and there was great camaraderie amongst all the soldiers."
On the Gaza operation, Peres added, "We must remember that this is the first time in history that a democratic country went to war with a terrorist country. A democratic country there are values, while a terrorist country has no value for life. Proof of this is all the suicide bombers – this is something forbidden by all religions."
Peres noted that Hamas is fighting a number of different wars at once, mentioning that revolt against the Palestinian Authority, the arena against the Egyptians, and, of course, their struggle against Israel.
"They don't want to talk to us. They only want to destroy us," said Peres. "But we are a stubborn nation, a nation of principles that does not give up."
More than 50 injured in hospitals
As of Monday morning, some 40 soldiers and 13 civilians wounded in the last three weeks during Operation Cast Lead are currently hospitalized in Israeli hospitals.
The condition of one of the soldiers, Golani soldier Wael Najam, remains critical. Najam was wounded when an IDF tank accidentally fired a shell at a house where Najam and his fellow soldiers were taking cover. He has been hospitalized since the event and remains unconscious in the ICU unit of Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.
Six other soldiers are hospitalized in serious condition, including Second Lt. Aharon Karov, who left his new wife only hours after their wedding and Golani soldier Ben Spitzer, both of whom are hospitalized at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva. Dvir Bar-Hai is hospitalized in serious condition at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba.
Some 800 soldiers and civilians were evacuated to various hospitals throughout the three weeks of fighting in Operation Cast Lead.