Naftali Bennett to BBC: 'Jenin has become an epicenter of terror'

Former prime minister says IDF and security forces are acting to remove terror threats in the Jenin refugee camp while taking precautions to avoid involvement of civilians; defends soldiers when anchor says they are 'happy to kill children'

Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett talked about the IDF’s counterterrorism operation in Jenin, and defended soldiers who the anchor said are "happy to kill children," on Tuesday in an interview with the UK-based BBC channel.
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The operation that began early on Monday in Jenin was methodically planned by the IDF intelligence for a year, with the aim of dealing a blow to the senior members of the newly established Palestinian terrorist organization, the Jenin Brigades.
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Naftali Bennet
Naftali Bennet
Naftali Bennet in BBC interview
(Photo: Screengrab)
“The Israeli military are calling this a military operation, but we now know that young people are being killed, four of them under 18 – is that really what the military set out to do?” the BBC anchor asked.
“Quite the contrary,” Bennett responded. “All 11 people dead there are militants. The fact that there’s young terrorists that decide to hold arms is their responsibility. Over the past year, we’ve had over 50 Israelis murdered, in many cases by terrorists that were sent from Jenin - armed, trained and sent to murder Israelis.”
“Jenin has become an epicenter of terror, so unfortunately we had to enter this hornet’s nest of terror and neutralize the terrorists,” he added. “All the Palestinians that were killed are terrorists in this case.”
In an unusual response, the anchor replied: “Terrorists, but children – the Israeli forces are happy to kill children.”
“If there’s a 17-year-old Palestinian that’s shooting at your family, what is he?” Bennett asked. “The UN has defined them as children,” the anchor replied.
“A 17-year-old terrorist can murder civilians,” Bennet said. “There’s a difference between what they’re [Palestinian terrorists] doing, which is deliberately targeting civilians, and what we’re doing which is targeting terrorists. We’re doing the right thing.”
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ישיבת הממשלה בנושא אישור ההסכם הימי עם לבנון
ישיבת הממשלה בנושא אישור ההסכם הימי עם לבנון
Naftali Bennett
(Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch)
“Isn’t it language and actions like these ones that have been taken that are going to stoke tensions even more?” the anchor asked.
“If there were a town of terror 50 km from London and on a daily basis there’s UK civilians being murdered on the streets, I’m sure you’d send soldiers there,” Bennet said.
“The reason that we’re seeing this rise of terror in Jenin is because Israel is not in Jenin,” he added. “We left Jenin 30 years ago, Israeli soldiers don’t run around Jenin.”
The anchor then presented Bennett with the U.S. government’s comment on the operation, saying that Israel has a right to defend itself while needing to take precautions to safeguard civilian lives.
“Can you say with assurance that precautions are being taken?” she asked. “Absolutely,” Bennett answered.
“This is not something we want to do. As a soldier and commander, I also served in Jenin and can promise you no Israeli soldier or mom wants to send their boy to Jenin. We’re doing it because they’re stabbing and shooting Israelis on the streets,” Bennet explained.
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חמושים פלסטינים בהלווית  מחבל בג'נין
חמושים פלסטינים בהלווית  מחבל בג'נין
Palestinian militants in Jenin
(Photo: Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)
Bennett then discussed the combined car-ramming and stabbing terror attack which took place in Tel Aviv Tuesday, in which at least nine Israelis were injured. “We’re not targeting civilians; they’re only targeting civilians,” he said.
The anchor then asked Bennett how the Israeli government intends to remove terror elements in Jenin, seeing as the terror cells found in them have no affiliation to a specific terrorist organization.
“It’s more complex,” Bennett said. “I’m not a huge supporter of this government, but I stand behind it and all Israelis and the Israeli security forces. We have a consensus in Israel that we need to do what we have to [in Jenin] and then get out in order to restore security.”
When asked how long the operation will continue for, Bennet said: “As long as it’s necessary, if we need a few more days, so be it, we need to defend our children.
Finally, the anchor asked the former prime minister when and how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will come to an end.
“When they decide that they accept the Jewish state in the land of Israel, it will end,” Bennett concluded.
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