JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is continuing his extensive efforts to maintain the international support for Israel’s operation against Hamas. Netanyahu met last night (Jul. 19) with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and told him at the start of their meeting: “I don’t think the international community should create any kind of symmetry between a democracy legitimately acting in its own self-defense trying to avoid civilian casualties and a terrorist organization that deliberately targets millions of innocent civilians. I know it’s not the position of France and I think it shouldn’t be the position of anyone in the international community.”
French-led efforts to reach a deal failed to yield results. Fabius, who flew to Israel after talks in Egypt and Jordan, told reporters after meeting with Netanyahu: “Sadly I can say that the call for a ceasefire has not been heard, and on the contrary, there’s a risk of more civilian casualties that worries us.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu also spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and told him about the missiles that were found at a UN school in Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Hamas is hiding rockets in schools and firing them at Israeli schools and noted that Hamas is using schools, residences, mosques and hospitals in order to launch rockets at Israeli civilians. He added that since Hamas is using innocent civilians as human shields for its terrorist activities, it is responsible if civilians are inadvertently hit.
Earlier on during Friday Netanyahu spoke with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and asked him to publish photographs showing the munitions that were hidden in a UN school in Gaza and which were discovered yesterday. Netanyahu added that Hamas conceals ammunition in schools and fires it at schools in Israel. Netanyahu stressed again that there is no symmetry between a murderous terrorist organization and a moral and democratic state that is under attack by missiles and tunnels. He said that Israel regrets any inadvertent strike on Palestinian civilians, whereas Hamas intentionally fires at millions of Israeli civilians. Qatar will host a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today in an attempt to reach a ceasefire agreement.
Later on Friday evening, Netanyahu spoke with US President Barack Obama. During their conversation a siren was heard as a result of missile fire from Gaza to Israel and the Prime Minister explained that this was the reality in which millions of Israelis have been living recently. Netanyahu told US President Obama that Hamas was using the residents of Gaza as human shields, as was seen yesterday when munitions were discovered in a UN school in Gaza, and added that, therefore, Hamas was responsible for injuries to the residents of Gaza. Netanyahu further thanked US President Obama for America’s support of Israel’s right to defend itself and for the partnership in developing the Iron Dome system.
Speaking to reporters after the conversation, Obama said, “We discussed Israel’s military operation in Gaza, including its efforts to stop the threat of terrorist infiltration through tunnels into Israel. I reaffirmed my strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself. No nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders or terrorists tunneling into its territory. In fact, while I was having the conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, sirens went off in Tel Aviv.”
Obama also said expressed concern about “the loss of more innocent life. “And that’s why we’ve indicated although we support military efforts by the Israelis to make sure that rockets are not being fired into their territory, we also have said that our understanding is the current military ground operations are designed to deal with the tunnels,” he said. He noted that Secretary of State John Kerry “is working to support Egypt’s initiative to pursue that outcome. I told Prime Minister Netanyahu that John is prepared to travel to the region following additional consultations.”
In general, Israel is so far enjoying strong international support for its efforts to defend itself from Hamas terrorist aggression.