UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel on Tuesday to show maximum restraint in its military operation in the Gaza Strip.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Ban said he strongly condemns rocket attacks, repeating his comments made earlier to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon that the sides must stop fighting, start talking and take on the root causes of the conflict.
In his remarks to Ban, Netanyahu said “it’s clear that Israel is doing what any country would do if terrorists rained down rockets on its cities and towns – hundreds of rockets, day after day, week after week.”
The prime minister continued: “In addition, as I’ve shown you, Hamas has dug terrorist tunnels under hospitals, mosques, schools, homes, to penetrate our territory, to kidnap and kill Israelis.
“Now, in the face of such wanton terrorism, no country could sit idly by. It would exercise its right, inherent and legitimate right of self-defense as we are doing, and act decisively to end the threat to its citizens. This is what Israel is doing.
“We did not seek this escalation, Mr. Secretary. We accepted the Egyptian cease-fire proposal. I don’t need to remind you it was a proposal that was supported by the UN, by the Arab League, by the United States, by Europe. Hamas rejected it. We accepted the humanitarian cease-fire proposal that the UN proposed afterward. Hamas rejected that. We accepted the cease-fire proposal of the Red Cross in Sajaiya. Hamas rejected that, twice….
“Mr. Secretary, we have made every effort and will continue to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties. We are targeting Hamas terrorist targets. We’ve just shown you these targets, embedded in civilian areas, embedded in mosques, embedded in hospitals, embedded in agricultural schools. Hamas is embedded in there in order to sustain civilian casualties, because they know that we will have to protect our citizens; that we have to act against their targets. So they are committing a double war crime: both targeting our civilians and hiding behind their civilians….
“I think the people of Gaza, and that’s become absolutely clear to the world, are the victims of the brutal Hamas regime. They are holding them hostage and they are hiding behind them.
“You know, Mr. Secretary, the international community has pressed us to give cement to Gaza to build schools, hospitals, homes. And now we see what has happened to those deliveries of cement. They have been used to dig tunnels next to a kindergarten, not to build a kindergarten but to build a tunnel that penetrates our territory so that Hamas can blow up our kindergartens and murder our children….
“We have even opened up a field hospital, Mr. Secretary, to help Hamas civilians, and Hamas is preventing civilians of Gaza from going to our hospital. I believe that you understand this. I believe that you understand that it is the right of every state to defend itself. And Israel will continue to do what it needs to do to defend its people.
“Mr. Secretary, this is not only our right; this is our duty.