DT Interview: Wiping Hamas only solution, says Israel Consul Gen
In this interview, Haim told at the consulate in Bengaluru that Israel was justified in bombing Al-Shifa hospital after it was used by Hamas as its control and command centre.
CHENNAI: Facing widespread international condemnation for recklessly bombing Gaza and killing civilians in thousands, Consul General of Israel to South India Tammy Ben-Haim questioned the alleged silence of int’l community on Hamas since 2007 and said the solution to the humanitarian crisis remained in the return of the Israeli hostages and elimination of Hamas.
Q) Hamas unleashed one of the deadly terror strikes on Oct 7. But, the retaliatory strikes of Israel since then have been no less bloody. Has the narrative changed in a month?
Tammy: Hamas’ attack on Israel is still going on. On October 7, about 2,000 terrorists came by land, air and sea and also underground and attacked Israel. They killed over 1,200 people. They killed entire families. Killed parents in front of their children and kidnapped the children. They raped women and killed them. They also brutalized families in front of each other. Cut body parts of kids in front of parents. Then tied them all together and burned them alive. We have not experienced such brutality in the modern age since the holocaust.
They have kidnapped over 240 people, including a nine-month old baby. They have raped and paraded the kidnapped girls naked in Gaza and have people spit on them. ICRC is not allowed to see them. When we went into Al - Antisi hospital, which Hamas was using as a part of its headquarters, apparently, we found evidence that the hostages were there. We found explosive belts that were probably used to tie on the hostages. We found a schedule of the guards. They are still committing these crimes against humanity. Any normal person cannot imagine the atrocities that these girls or children or women are going through as we are speaking. They are still shooting rockets into Israel’s towns and villages. They are still trying to kill more citizens.
Q) How many casualties or injuries were reported in the attacks you claim Hamas continues to unleash on Israel?
Tammy: Almost 8,000 people have been injured. They could be critical or lost limbs or some of them might be crippled for life. I am not talking about psychological injuries or the 2,50,000 people displaced within Israel.
Hamas is still holding Palestinians as human shields. IDF is making safe passage for people in Gaza to move from north to south Gaza and helping hospitals clear their patients and bringing mobile incubators from Israel to Al-Shifa hospital so that babies can be taken to the south of Gaza. They are physically protecting Palestinians from Hamas which is trying to stop them from leaving even if it is by killing them.
Hamas has been ruling Gaza for 16 years. During this period, they have only been using the funding from terrorist regimes like the Iran regime and international funds meant for Gazans for their terrorist purposes. Nothing was done to change the people’s lives there. We are seeing the results of a 16-year-old terrorist project. Israel has not been there for 18 years. They built 500 kms of tunnels under the city and brainwashed the people to use them for their purposes. The fact that they put their biggest command and control centres under the biggest hospital in Gaza and they have held hostages under rooms in Antisi hospital show their total disregard for not only Israeli lives, but also Palesitinian lives.
Q) Doctors without borders has reported that at least 39 babies have died for want of electricity to run the incubators in Al-Shifa hospital, which was besieged by the IDF. No electricity or food or water went into the hospital for a week. About 179 bodies were reportedly buried on the hospital campus. Is the siege laid to Al-Shifa hospital justified?
Tammy: The numbers are coming from a terrorist organization…
Q) Not just from a terrorist organization. A spokesperson of Palestinian Authority and Doctors Without Borders have also claimed the numbers….
Tammy: Everything in Gaza is run by Hamas. I can dress as a terrorist, give him a press vest, put him in an ambulance. Some terrorists are 17 and half years old. If a person is a year younger, Hamas says, oh, it is a minor that died. They don’t mention what they were doing prior to that. Casualties are a very sad thing. We all, India, US, UK and we all care about them.
Q) Do you empathize with them?
Tammy: Of course I do. Hamas is the only one which does not care. Just a week ago, the UN agency admitted that Hamas stole 24,000 litres of fuel from them. There is fuel for the hospitals. The EU and Israel assisted many hospitals with solar panels. They get their electricity from solar panels. The other day Israel tried to bring fuel into Al-shifa hospital. Hamas stopped the delivery. Israel is doing everything it can. We have been saying for a week that there is a Hamas command and control centre under Al Shifa hospital and we are going to be attacking the centre and please clear out. We will help you move to the south. What army gives away the element of surprise and gives away its strategic advantage in order to help people.
(The interview was done prior to the IDF's raid in Al-Shifa. Post-raid media reports, including most western media reports showed no proof of Hamas command and Control centre under Al-Shifa hospital as claimed by Israel)
Q) If the IDF is so concerned about civilian safety, will there be a ceasefire?
Tammy: Of course, there can. Let us bring back the 240 hostages and we will talk.
Q) International community has been appealing for a ceasefire too. Will Israel oblige?
Tammy: Is Hamas listening? Hamas does not care about the babies…
Q) Hamas, according to you, is a terrorist outfit. But, Israel is a ‘sovereign’ state requested to agree to a ceasefire to save civilians…
Tammy: There were 40,000 people in Al-Shifa hospital. A few thousand were patients. Then Palestinian civilians came to the hospital grounds because they knew that the IDF would not bomb them and it would be a safe place. We care about people. We follow rules. We would not bomb them.
Q) But in the last few weeks, we have seen Israel bomb many hospitals…
Tammy: Not many. We always give warnings. We say and we clear the people. There are only 1,000 people left in Al-Shifa. We are helping the doctors and patients who have stayed to move to the south.
Q) Is bombing hospitals after giving time not a violation of international law?
Tammy: It is absolutely not a violation because the moment a hospital is used for terrorist purposes it nullifies its status under international law. The person who made the hospital the target is Hamas. Israel, in its full right, under the same international law, could have bombed the hospital without clearing the people and without saying anything.
Q) Which it did?
Tammy: It did not. Every hospital was cleared.
Q) But the enormity of casualties in hospitals suggest otherwise…
Tammy: Al-Quds, Al-Rantisi and Al-Ahli were bombed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They bombed their own hospital. All of north Gaza, for over a month now, we have been clearing people. Rantisi has 1,000 patients mostly. Doctors left in Israel have been helping move them south. Around the southern border, the International community has been helping set up field hospitals in order to get these patients. Some patients have gone to Egypt. Everybody is taking care of these people except for Hamas. So, there is no issue here at all.
Q) If Israel is so concerned about civilian safety and it did so much, how could there be over 11,000 civilian deaths in Gaza?
Tammy: We don’t know the exact numbers. At least half of them (dead) are terrorists or have been involved or aiding Hamas.
Q) Reports from even Israel’s friendly countries show that at least 40% of those killed in Gaza are children. estimated to be over 4,650…
Tammy: We are still trying. War is a horrible thing. People are still dying in Israel from the rockets shot from Lebanon. When the international coalition against ISIS attacked, people died. When friendly forces were trying to stop the Nazis, they bombed whole cities. People died. We are trying to minimise it as much as possible. We are dealing with a terrorist organization that knows no humanity and does not care at all about their own citizens or Jews. Hamas is happy. Israel did not want this war. It was living quietly within its border. Every sad story from both sides is the fault of a terrorist organization.
Q) In one of your recent interviews you said the war is against Hamas and you wouldn’t stop till you neutralize Hamas. But the price paid is too high….
Tammy: Why did the UN organizations not come out eight or five years ago and tell the world that Hamas was using them or all of Gaza for the sole purpose of killing as many Jews and destroying Israel. Why didn’t it appeal to the international community? Nobody did anything. Israel went in a few times to destroy specific Hamas targets. But, nobody in the world said, let us stop Hamas. UN organizations had people on the ground. When we see tunnel shafts and openings in kindergartens and what they built under hospitals. They could not have gone unnoticed. Everybody was complacent. It will be better for not just Israel but the people of Gaza if we get rid of the terrorist organization.
Q) As much as it is your right to fight Hamas, don’t you think Palestinian’s are well within their rights to resist an occupier… If Israel would accuse Hamas of violating international law, Israel is also obligated, under the same law, to leave an occupying territory in Palestine or Gaza….
Tammy: We are not an occupying entity in Gaza.
Q) What about the West Bank and Golan Heights?
Tammy: Golan Heights is a whole different story. And it is Syria and I do not want to get…. There is nothing in the West Bank at the moment. The Palestinian Authority there is not supporting Hamas. Israel left Gaza completely in 2005.
The people voted a terrorist organization to power in 2006. It is a different story. The head of the Palestinian authority and President Mahmood Abbas tried to sort of not let Hamas rule Gaza. Hamas took all Fatah leaders and threw them off the roof to get control of Gaza.
Q) There were allegations that Israel, Egypt and Palestinian Authority jointly plotted to topple Hamas in Gaza in 2007.
Tammy: I don’t know who said this. Nothing happened. They killed Palestinians and got control of Gaza in 2007 by an armed coup.
Q) So, you say, there was oversight on the part of Israel…
Tammy: It was everybody’s oversight. There are 240 children and women being brutalized by Hamas. We are trying to stop them. See what the world is saying now about us when this is happening. What did the world say when a few years ago we told what we were dealing with? Hamas own body cam images show them parading people naked and beheading them.
Q) Even western media reports have questioned the veracity of Israel’s claims?
Tammy: You see from their own cameras. People are still blind. They still don’t understand the difference between terrorists and humans. The UN organizations did not come out and see when we said this six or seven years ago.
Q) UN Secretary general Antonio Gutteres said that the October 7 Hamas attack did not happen in a vacuum.
Tammy: So he said. UN women’s committee talks about raping women. Now rape is considered a war crime and crime against women during war. IDF is the only army which brings medics and Arabic speaking to help civilians.
Q) The same IDF is accused of deploying tanks at Al-Shifa and stopping aid, which killed children…
Tammy: People can say a lot of things. It is not true. What can I do?.
Q) Does your desperation to neutralize Hamas justify the kind of devastation caused in Gaza?
Tammy: If it were any other army in the world, they would have just blasted north Gaza to shreds. We are not doing that. Why are we risking our lives? Why are we going there by foot with ground soldiers?
Q) Of course, ground movement happened after heavy bombardment for weeks together.
Tammy: We did not bombard any hospital.
Q) Even the red cross and UN agencies have expressed concerns about your bombardment..
Tammy: The same red cross and UN did not say anything about the barbarity being done to Jewish women and hostages. Why don’t you talk about the EU's clear condemnation against Hamas? They clearly said Hamas was violating international law by using hospitals and using people as human shields. If the same organizations who don’t condemn what is being done to Jewish women start talking now, then there are many who don’t understand. Anti-Semitism is on the rise. There are many people who are happy to see what is being done to the Jewish people.
Q) Any condemnation of Israel is accused as being anti-Semitist or pro-terror..
Tammy: If a terrorist organization came from across the border and kidnapped 32,000 Indian people, including babies (a number proportionate to Israel’s 240) across the border and raped and brutalized them, what would India do?
Q) Don’t you think the whole issue could be put to rest if the two-state solution is agreed in the historical perspective, taking into account 1948, 1967 and 1993...
Tammy: No. even if we agree for a two state solution, the Palestinian authority is not controlling Gaza. Is Hamas talking to Fatah in the Palestinian authority? Whatever solution we come up with, would it have any effect on Gaza…
Q) Don’t you trust the int’l community to influence Hamas
Tammy: Apparently not. The UN has been sitting there for 16 years not doing anything. ICRC is not doing anything to free the hostages. What sort of international intervention is that?
Q) Are you suggesting that the UN is complicit
Tammy: No. Not the UN as the UN. But the Palestinians and Gazans who work for the UN organizations that are sitting now in Gaza. Yes.
Q) Again, they represent the UN…
Tammy: Yes. They do. But they live in Gaza. We see what they say and what they have done.
Q) So, if the UN has not flagged the concerns you have raised so far, is the UN complicit…
Tammy: No. The UN is too big an organization and the only intl organization. This is not the point in time. But the local people working for it need to be looked at.
Q) Your friends like France and the UK have started calling out the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and propose an immediate ceasefire.
Tammy: What type of cease fire. We are doing everything we can. Thousands of tons of medical supplies and water is being pumped into Gaza. We are doing everything we can to avoid any damage to human lives.
Q) Your own allies have alleged that aid has not reached the people. Images showed children relying on rain water to drink…
Tammy: Nobody is saying that any more. Tons of water and medical supplies, everything is in south Gaza. It is not a nice life. They are still displaced. Nobody is claiming that it is not tough. All the aid is getting in. Aid is sent by India, Kuwait, Turkey, UAE, everybody has been sending. Hamas is the only group not helping and wishing more people will die.
Q) What is the solution?
Tammy: To get rid of Hamas.
Q) There are reports showing ministers in Netanyahu’s cabinet proposing voluntary migration of Gazan’s to other countries. Will that not qualify for ethnic cleansing?
Tammy: I don’t know. Politicians say what they want to say.
Q) Members of Netanyahu’s cabinet have been quoted saying thus..
Tammy: Ok. Maybe they have said. But the government has not done anything of that sort or has not worked on it. Once Hamas is out, the people of Gaza will have a chance to have a good life. Finally, there will be a correct education system teaching English, Math and literature and science to the people there. And not just hate and anti-Semitism…
Q) Who will rule Gaza after eliminating Hamas?
Tammy: There are many options. The international community can rise up to it. Maybe Arab countries. First, let us get rid of the terrorist organization. What does the Hamas charter say? Welfare of the people of Gaza? No. They want to destroy Israel and kill jews. What after that? They will not be content with that? Their specific Islamic caliphate. After the Jews, they want to take the Christians, Hindus and even those within the Muslims. If we don’t eliminate the terrorist organization, it is a threat to all.