Israel “is not violating humanitarian law” in its war against Hamas in Gaza, Israel’s ambassador to the EU and NATO told Euronews.
In an interview given on Wednesday, Israeli Ambassador Haim Regev refuted the assertions made the day before by the head of European diplomacy. Josep Borrell assured that cutting off water, electricity and access to food in the Gaza Strip “goes against” international humanitarian law.
“We will use all means to eliminate Hamas and save our people. We cannot fight against terrorists with our hands tied behind our backs,” insists Haim Regev.
“We are going to be very tough, very aggressive. We will do whatever it takes to free the hostages and eliminate Hamas.”
Hamas, the Islamist group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, killed more than 1,000 Israelis and took more than a hundred hostages in an unexpected attack over the weekend. The movement is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union.
Haim Regev assures that Israel’s objective was to eliminate Hamas while avoiding harming civilians.
“The Palestinian people are not our enemy and we will do everything in our power to avoid harming innocent people,” said the ambassador. “But this is a very complex environment. Hamas uses innocent people as human shields, and that is something we will take into consideration.”
“Our war is not against the Palestinian people, it is against Hamas,” he continues.
‘Tough’ EU response needed
Haim Regev also says he is in favor of a review of the funds granted by the EU to the Palestinians.
After initially suggesting on Monday that it would suspend all financial support to the Palestinians, the European Commission corrected its comments to clarify that it was launching a review of its aid programs. For Haim Regev, this thorough review was necessary to ensure that no funds inadvertently fell into the hands of Hamas.
“At this stage, the best thing to do is to examine – as the EU has decided to do – the whole of the aid. We do not know at the moment where the aid is going”, judges the Diplomat.
“We urge EU member states and EU institutions to continue this review and check exactly where this aid is going.”
Josep Borrell said on Tuesday that an “overwhelming majority” of EU countries supported continuing to send humanitarian and development aid to the Palestinian territories. Austria is the only member state to have suspended its support.
The EU can play an important role in putting “pressure” on Hamas and ensuring that Israeli hostages held in Gaza are released, according to Haim Regev.
“At this moment, Hamas must be under pressure, and even more so, all international and regional actors must see that there is a severe response from the EU.”
Two “vectors” in the Middle East
The ambassador believes that other Arab countries in the Middle East also have a vital role to play in showing that they cannot tolerate terrorism.
“There are two vectors in the Middle East. One is moderate – Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and hopefully the Saudis – and the other is sponsored by Iran”, summarizes the diplomat.
“Iran supports Hamas. Iran supports Hamas financially and politically.”
The level of planning required to launch the full-scale assault over the weekend has led many to question Hamas’ capabilities to act alone. Hezbollah, an armed Shiite militia supported by Tehran and considered the paramilitary ally of Hamas, has exchanged strikes with Israel since the start of the conflict, raising fears of an escalation.
Referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that the Israeli counter-offensive “will change the Middle East”, Haim Regev confirmed that this meant reducing Tehran’s influence.
“Changing the Middle East means supporting moderate forces and stopping Iran, eliminating Hamas and all these organizations,” he emphasizes.
Asked about the prospects of ending the circle of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, the Israeli ambassador replied that his country was now “focusing” on eliminating Hamas in Gaza.
“Hamas made a huge mistake. They miscalculated Israel’s strength and I think this is the end of this organization. Once we eliminate Hamas, I don’t think we will see this cycle of violence in Gaza.
This article is originally published on /fr.euronews.com