Despite calls from the United Nations and others for a “humanitarian truce” between Israel and Hamas, Israeli Embassy official Eliav Benjamin says, “Nobody in Israel is talking about a cease-fire at this point.” Benjamin adds that there is “zero appetite for that.”
Benjamin, deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, told The Daily Signal during an interview there Monday that a “cease-fire existed for years until Oct. 7, and look what happened.”
On that Saturday, hundreds of Hamas terrorists entered Israel from the south, and slaughtered 1,400 civilians, some of whom first were raped and tortured. About 240 others were taken hostage.
“Hamas armed itself, funded itself, trained itself to the extent of the atrocities that we saw on Oct. 7,” Benjamin said.
The atrocities of Oct. 7 brought a group of faith leaders and a few reporters to the Embassy of Israel on Monday afternoon to view a 45-minute film containing social media footage, body camera footage, and surveillance videos from that day.
The video clips and images take the viewer into the homes of Israeli citizens where Hamas terrorists killed parents in front of their children, and to the streets where Hamas terrorists gunned down civilians and cheered over the dead bodies. One after another, images of burned, mutilated, and tortured Israeli citizens played on the screen. When the film ended, the room was silent.
Hamas now governs the Gaza Strip, winning an election there less than two years after Israel left in 2005.
Israel’s objective now is to destroy Hamas’ military and governance capabilities. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Jewish state is achieving this goal step by step.
“If you want peace, destroy Hamas,” Netanyahu said Sunday on NBC News. “If you want security, destroy Hamas. If you want a future for Israel, the Palestinians, the Middle East, destroy Hamas.”
And, he said, Israel Defense Forces “were absolutely intent on achieving it.”
Netanyahu has vowed that Israel will advance toward its goal with as few civilian casualties as possible, a position that Benjamin stressed to The Daily Signal after the film screening at the Israeli Embassy.
“Israel is doing its utmost not to have anybody who is not Hamas to be hit or struck” in the fighting, Benjamin said, adding that “it’s on Hamas themselves to move away from hiding behind human shields as they’ve been doing with Gazans since they took over in 2007, and now so much more so.”
Benjamin said Hamas is using Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, calling it “probably their strongest stronghold in Gaza where their headquarters are kept well under ground,” and saying Hamas also operates “within the hospital itself.”
The New York Times reported that Israeli security officials say that Hamas has “spent the better part of 16 years building a vast command complex under the hospital and setting up similar bases underneath other medical facilities in the enclave.”
American intelligence also indicates that Hamas has established operations in tunnels below Shifa Hospital.
Apart from protecting the lives of Israeli troops, Benjamin told The Daily Signal, the greatest challenge for Israel’s military now is to harm as few “nnocent civilians” as possible.
“We are doing our utmost to keep innocent civilians out of harm’s way,” Benjamin said. “We’ve been calling them from Day One to go down south in Gaza to keep away from this area. Hamas is doing everything it possibly can to actually keep them in harm’s way.”
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