Naftali Bennett, a member of Israel’s Knesset legislature who previously served from 2019 to 2020 as Israel’s Defense Minister, said in a Thursday interview with Al Jazeera that it is up to the leaders of Hamas to stop the ongoing rocket attacks on Israel and that if they don’t they will be hunted down.
When asked whether people could expect the fighting to deescalate, Bennett said, “It’s up to Hamas. As long as Hamas keeps its deliberate attack in order to murder Israelis across the state – by the way, Arabs and Jews alike; Hamas already murdered two Arab Israelis in Lod, a dad, 52 years old, and his daughter Nadin, 16 years old, Israeli Arabs who were murdered. A Holocaust survivor, 85 years old, was murdered by Hamas, in her wheelchair.”
Bennett continued, “If Hamas thinks they can get away with this, they’re wrong. We’ll hunt down every commander, every post, until we win.”
Bennett, who is also the leader of the conservative Yamina political party, was also questioned about Palestinian casualties as a result of the ongoing fighting. Asked about 53 people killed in Gaza, including 14 children, Bennett said, “Indeed Hamas killed them.”
As Bennett answered, the Al Jazeera host pushed back, asserting that those women and children were killed by Israeli airstrikes.
“When you hide your rockets behind women and children, you are effectively murdering your own people,” Bennett continued. “Make no mistake, I spent the night in the shelter with my family in the city of Ra’anana. We will defend ourselves and if Hamas decides to turn schools into terror bases, and hospitals, in a cowardly manner, into terror bases, they are responsible for murdering their own people.”
The Al Jazeera host then argued that while Israel does have shelters against attacks, while people in Gaza do not.
“You can’t simply say that Hamas effectively killed them because it was an Israeli airstrike which killed them,” the Al Jazeera host said. “If you’re hitting residential buildings. If you’re hitting police buildings, media buildings, that’s why they’re dying.”
Bennett responded, “That’s nonsense. Hamas, instead of taking its money and investing it in hospitals, in schools and building a future for its people, it’s spending all its money on terror and trying to kill Israelis. It’s both stupid and wrong. It’s stupid because they’re not going to succeed because we’re strong and we’re going to defend ourselves.”
Bennett said that while his Yamina Party is politically opposed to the current Israeli government, “We stand strong, united and there’s one way for this to stop: For Hamas to lay down its arms and then it’ll stop.”
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained the disparity in the loss of civilian life in Gaza as compared to Israel. The IDF has Israel’s abundance of bomb shelters as well as systems like the Iron Dome, which has been used to intercept rockets fired from Gaza, have helped to limit Israeli casualties. The IDF has also argued that as many as 350 of the more than 1,700 rockets fired from Gaza this week have actually misfired and landed inside of Gaza, potentially contributing to the casualties there.
“WATCH as a Hamas rocket aimed at Israel misfires and falls back into Gaza,” the IDF tweeted on Thursday. “But this isn’t the 1st time—Hamas misfired 350 rockets in the last 3 days. These rockets result in the deaths of innocent Gazan civilians. It’s time for the world to hold Hamas accountable.”