Hamas is committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip and the only solution is to make the area demilitarized, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, after meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini in Jerusalem.
"Hamas terrorists ... are seeking to fire rockets on our cities," Netanyahu said in remarks to the press that followed their meeting. "They killed an Israeli citizen yesterday, but they’re targeting millions of our citizens, directly targeting them with rocket fire which is a war crime, and also using their own civilians as human shields – another war crime."
The prime minister lambasted the militant group for rejecting the Egyptian ceasefire initiative proposed Monday, which Israel had accepted, and for continuing to launch rockers at Israeli cities even as Israel decided to halt its own military operation.
"Yesterday I accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. This was a proposal that was endorsed by the UN Secretary General and by the Arab League. Israel accepted the ceasefire, Hamas rejected it," Netanyahu said.
"We held our fire for six hours, and during that time Hamas continue to barrage our cities with rockets. Hamas thus shut the door to a diplomatic solution and it therefore bears the sole responsibility for the continuation of the violence. It’s responsible for the civilian deaths, the innocent deaths of Palestinians that it uses as human shields, and it’s responsible for the deaths of Israeli civilians and the terror rocketing of Israeli civilians."
Netanyahu vowed that Israel would not sit back and let its population centers come under constant attack:
"Those who are firing at us are not seeking a political solution. Those who are firing at us are seeking the disappearance of Israel, the destruction of Israel. And so for them we have one answer: we will fight you and we will defeat you. That is something that we are committed to do."
The prime minster also thanked the international community for its support during the nine-day-old military operation aimed at halting the rocket fire, but insisted that any viable situation must ensure that there Gaza has no military capabilities at all.
"I think that the most important thing vis-à-vis Gaza is to ensure that Gaza is demilitarized from rockets and from the attack tunnels that Hamas is seeking, is building into Israel," he said.
"This is an important part of the long-term solution but in the immediate moment, Israel has to take the actions to defend its citizens as any normal country would against terrorists who are committing double war crimes of targeting civilians and hiding behind civilians. I think this is a standard that all responsible members of the international community should condemn. I know you do."