As Israel engages in a massive air campaign ahead of an anticipated full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said on Friday that all citizens of Gaza are responsible for the attack Hamas perpetrated in Israel last weekend that left over 1,200 people dead.
“It is an entire nation out there that is responsible,” Herzog said at a press conference on Friday. “It is not true this rhetoric about civilians not being aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up. They could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’etat.”
When a reporter asked Herzog to clarify whether he meant to say that since Gazans did not remove Hamas from power “that makes them, by implication, legitimate targets,” the Israeli president claimed, “No, I didn’t say that.”
But he then stated: “When you have a missile in your goddamn kitchen and you want to shoot it at me, am I allowed to defend myself?”
Herzog’s comments follow Israel’s announcement that it had directed the 1.1 million residents of northern Gaza to evacuate, likely ahead of a ground invasion. Israel dropped thousands of flyers over northern Gaza and left voice messages on Friday directing people to leave their homes and flee south.
Human rights groups and the United Nations denounced the evacuation order.
“The United Nations considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences,” Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said in a statement. “The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation.”
Ordering a million people in Gaza to evacuate, when there’s no safe place to go, is not an effective warning,” Clive Baldwin, senior legal advisor to Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “World leaders should speak up now before it is too late, he added.
Fabrizio Carboni, the Near and Middle East regional director for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a statement that both the collective punishment of civilians by Israel and taking of hostages by Hamas are violations of international humanitarian law.
We are now in contact with Hamas and Israeli officials as part of efforts on this issue,” Carboni said in a statement. “As a neutral intermediary we stand ready to conduct humanitarian visits; facilitate communication between hostages and family members; and to facilitate any eventual release.”
In addition, a small handful of Democratic Party politicians denounced both Israel’s order to evacuate northern Gaza and Herzog’s statement of support for collective punishment.
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