IDF: 'Israel desires peace, wrongly accused of using excessive force'

Speaking to RT, Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Josh Hantman said “collateral damage” will continue in Israel’s ferocious ongoing ‘Pillar of Defense’ campaign in Gaza, and that Israel is being wrongly accused of disproportionate aggression.

­RT:126 Palestinians have died since the violence began, almost half of them reportedly civilians. Israel lost a soldier today, killed by a Gaza rocket. Surely you can understand why critics accuse Israel of disproportionate aggression when you compare these figures, no?

Josh Hantman: Let me start with your disproportionate reporting, you seem to have preempted my whole interview by saying that everything I say will be part of our PR machine, so what I’m going to do is, I’m going to make a deal with you. Everything I say will be based on Hamas’ actions and Hamas’ words. So therefore you can’t blame any Israeli PR machine it will be based purely on the facts and the words of Hamas themselves.

RT:Ok, well, you go ahead do it then…

JH: Let’s go sir, so first and foremost let’s see Hamas’ response to civilian deaths on both sides. The Israeli Defense Ministry who I represent and indeed the Israeli public are mourning civilian deaths on both sides, I’ve seen it. I’ve been running around the south, from bomb shelter to bomb shelter, dodging rockets, hearing the cries of Israeli civilians and the cries and wails of the air raid sirens, and at the same time Hamas have been shooting barrages of mockets, err, rockets, sorry, of mortars, of missiles into Israeli civilian population.

RT:But it must be said, no civilians dead on the Israeli side…?

JH: Sir, I will have you know that there have been four Israelis killed on the Israeli side and let’s also note that in the interview I gave you the other day you showed masses of pictures of Palestinian victims but not one picture of an Israeli victim, not one picture of an Israeli destroyed house. Not one picture. This is the interview, a nine-minute-long interview…

RT:I would like you to clarify, civilians or soldiers…?

JH: I’m talking civilians, sir. I’m talking civilians, sir. I was in Kiryat Malakhi where a rocket came through a window and killed three civilians. I’m talking about the civilian that was killed again today sir, as well as the soldier that was killed today. I’m talking about the millions of civilians who are under direct rocket fire on a daily basis sir. And the fact that you don’t know this, it’s reflective of the reporting of this channel and quite frankly it’s problematic…

RT:We simply have different information than the information you are telling us. We’ll leave it there. Now the UN relief work agency is accused of the IDF of lying when it claimed the UN agency had allowed Hamas to fire rockets from its schools, how do you react to that?

JH: So sir, I’d like to, again, I promise you I wouldn’t answer the question based on Israel’s PR machine, so let’s listen to Hamas’ words. I’d like to turn you to an interview that Hamas Member of Parliament, a guy called Fatkhai Hammed, who said in 2009 that we, the Hamas guys, glorify death, while the Israelis glorify life. He openly boasted about using human shields. There are numerous YouTube videos, don’t just look at the idea propaganda machine as you call it. Look at the thousands of YouTube videos where ‘Hamasniks’ are pulling civilians into the fire, so you can shoot at Israeli citizens with this protection, this human shield of their own civilians. We value life and we mourn it every single civilian lost on both sides, I cannot empathize that enough. You look at Hamas’ response to the deaths in Kiryat Malakhi, the ones you conveniently forgot this week and they were celebrating the deaths on the Israeli side.

RT:Let’s go back to the UN relief work agency that accused the IDF of lying when it claimed the UN agency had allowed Hamas to fire rockets from its schools, we have a video showing the rockets being fired from trees, also your video there showing children involved with firing those rockets. How is that justifiable? What do you make of this?

JH: Again sir, please don’t look at our videos. Look at all the videos! Look at Hamas’ own videos. The fact is they’ve been shooting for over a decade, not only out of schools, out of mosques, next to hotels, where international journalists are staying, they’re shooting in densely populated areas and I know you’re going to tell me Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, but they go directly into the heart of the population to shoot at Israel civilian population. You know, there are plenty of places they could shoot at us if they wanted to, there are long beaches, there are plenty of open yards, but no, they specifically choose the densely populated urban areas so they can use their own civilians as a protective shield against our precision strikes.

RT:When I see the graphic footage in Gaza of dead children being pulled out of collapsed buildings, do you maintain that their deaths, at the hands of Israel, Israeli air strikes, are the fault of Hamas?

JH: Sir, I can tell you, it genuinely breaks my heart to think that we would want to see dead children on any side. As I said, we mourn every loss of life. Hamas on the other hand are celebrating it and they are putting their own civilians in danger. I cannot tell you how much we desire quiet, how much we desire true peace and calm in this region, but when we’re facing an enemy that’s guilty of this verbal war crime whereby they’re hurting their own civilians while shooting at our civilians for over a decade now. We’re in this predicament that however with the most strategic, the most surgical precision pinpoint strikes, when they are hiding beneath their civilian population, there will be collateral damage.

And no one wants to see it, of course no one wants to see it, but unfortunately we’re facing this internationally recognized terrorist organization, recognized by the US, recognized by the EU as a terrorist organization that has been firing at over a million of our citizens, over 15 percent of our country, for a decade – for a decade. In the last week alone, over a thousand rockets have been fired into our civilian population. We have half the country under direct rocket fire. Just imagine if Russia, with a 140 million population, just imagine if Russia had a situation whereby 70 million of its citizens were within the direct range of an Islamist terrorist organization firing rockets at their citizens. Would the Russians tolerate this? Would the Russian people tolerate this? Would the Russian army tolerate this?

RT:Ok, ok…

JH: The answer, sir, please don’t interrupt me, because you didn’t let me finish my sentence. The answer sir is categorically no. Would the US take a situation where 150 million of their 300 million citizens were under direct rocket fire? The answer, sir, is categorically no! We have a right to defend ourselves and we will defend ourselves in the most surgical manner possible, to reduce civilian deaths on their side and to protect our civilians from our side…

RT:At the end of the day, many Palestinians – especially in Gaza – continue to stand by Hamas. And by all appearances, they will do so until the violence ends. Do you believe missiles will change their allegiance tonight?

JH: Sir, I haven’t done any opinion polls recently in the Hamas-run Gaza strip, however what I can say is that the deterrent to the Hamas regime must be restored. No country can live in a situation whereby every single week, in some cases, every single day there are rockets, missiles and mortars being fired at their citizens. And you know what? I think that the Gazan population will also realize that quiet, peace and calm is in their best interest too.