Israeli President Isaac Herzog defended his country’s attack on Hamas during a fiery news conference Thursday, saying Israel was ‘fighting terror’ and that they would spare no expense in eliminating those who committed the worst attack on Israel in its 75-year history.
‘We are fighting terror,’ Herzog said. ‘Humanity has to decide: are we accommodating terror or are we fighting terror? We saw the worst atrocities possible. We are seeing the worst atrocities possible by a whole campaign of a movement, which has major support from our neighbors.’
Herzog continued: ‘I agree, there are many, many innocent Palestinians who do not agree with this [ideology], but unfortunately, in their homes, there are missiles shooting at us, at my children, on the entire nation of Israel. We have to defend ourselves. We have the full right to do so. It’s about time the whole world understands it, this is the tragedy of using terror. There is no mercy to terror.’
The president’s remarks come as Israel continues to launch destructive airstrikes in Gaza, flattening entire city blocks. Israel’s army is preparing a ground offensive in Gaza, although officials have said it would not invade unless authorized by the government to do so. It would likely result in a surge of casualties on both sides.
During the press conference, the Israeli president specified that his country was at war with Hamas and was not intentionally targeting civilians, but said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would fire at civilian targets if terrorists use the sites to target Israel first.
He also expressed frustration with the people in Gaza who allowed Hamas to come into power and remain in power as it continued its hate campaign against Israel.
‘This rhetoric about civilians not aware and not involved is absolutely not true. They could have risen up, they could have fought against that evil regime that took over Gaza in a coup d’État,’ Herzog said.
Militants in Gaza are holding an estimated 150 people taken hostage from Israel — soldiers, men, women, children and older adults — and they have fired thousands of rockets into Israel over the past five days.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Hamas terrorists, who were responsible for Saturday’s massacre, have engaged in atrocities, including binding boys and girls and shooting them in the head, burning people alive, raping women and beheading soldiers.
Rescue workers and witnesses have described horrifying scenes, including the slaughter of elderly people and finding bloody rooms crowded with massacred civilians.
The 2.3 million residents of Gaza are densely packed into a strip of land only 25 miles long. Israel has halted the entry of food, water, fuel and medicine into the territory, with Herzog saying this will continue until the hostages are released.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.