Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected calls for a ceasefire in the ongoing Israel–Hamas conflict, likening such calls for a pause in the fighting to a demand for the Israeli side to surrender.
Israeli forces have carried out extensive airstrikes and limited ground assaults inside the Gaza Strip after Hamas gunmen breached the Israel–Gaza barrier on Oct. 7 and proceeded to kill hundreds of Israeli citizens.
“Israel will not agree to a cessation of hostilities with Hamas after the horrific attacks of October 7,” the Israeli prime minister said in English remarks during a Monday press conference. “Calls for a ceasefire are a call for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism, to surrender to barbarism. That will not happen. Ladies and gentlemen, the Bible says that there is a time for peace and a time for war. This is a time for war.”
Calls to halt the fighting between Israel and Hamas have spread throughout the international community. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a non-binding resolution last week for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce” between Israel and Hamas; 120 nations voted in favor of that UNGA resolution, while 14 nations voted against it and 45 others abstained from voting.
Some House Democrats have also sought a resolution that urges President Joe Biden to join his voice to the calls for a cease-fire.
During his Monday press remarks, Mr. Netanyahu said the United States would not have agreed to calls for a ceasefire after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 or the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Today, we draw a line between the forces of civilization and the forces of barbarism. It is a time for everyone to decide where they stand. Israel will stand against the forces of barbarism until victory,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “I hope and pray that civilized nations everywhere will back this fight, because Israel’s fight is your fight. Because if Hamas and Iran’s axis of evil win—you will be their next target.”
Humanitarian Conditions in Gaza
Following the Oct. 7 attacks, the Israeli military surrounded the Gaza Strip and restricted the flow of food, water, electricity, and fuel into the confined territory. Israel has warned civilians in the Gaza Strip to move south, and has allowed some limited humanitarian aid to enter the strip in recent days.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East has reported that around 670,000 Gaza civilians are currently sheltered in 149 sites within the Gaza Strip as the fighting continues. It remains difficult to verify the exact numbers of civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip and attribute blame, but the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund reported last week that some 2,360 children have been killed and 5,364 children have been injured in the Gaza Strip in the first 18 days of the fighting.
Biden Admin Backs Israel Despite Civilian Casualties
Despite growing concerns about conditions for civilians in the Gaza Strip, President Biden and other members of his administration have avoided pressuring Israel to stop its military operations.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, “Israel has both the right and even the obligation not only to defend itself but to try to make sure that, to the best of its ability, this can’t happen again” and that “freezing things in place where they are now would allow Hamas to remain where it is and to repeat what it’s done some time in the future.”
When asked about civilian casualties during an Oct. 27 press conference, President Biden said Israel should be careful to avoid civilian casualties but said such deaths are to be expected in wartime.
“I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed. I’m sure innocents have been killed, and it’s the price of waging a war,” President Biden said. “The Israelis should be incredibly careful to be sure that they’re focusing on going after the folks that are propagating this war against Israel. And it’s against their interest when that doesn’t happen. But I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”
In addition to killing hundreds of people during the Oct. 7 attack, Hamas gunmen also took more than 200 hostages back to the Gaza Strip, including an unknown number of Americans.
The White House has indicated the release of all hostages is a precondition before it will support calls for a ceasefire.