What have Israeli officials said about Palestinians in Gaza?

What have Israeli officials said about Palestinians in Gaza?
Israel has relentlessly bombed Gaza for over a week. Here are comments made by five current and former Israeli officials about Palestinians in the besieged enclave.
4 min read
15 October, 2023
Israeli President Isaac Herzog has said all Gazans were 'responsible' for Hamas's surprise attack on Israel [Askin Kiyagan/Anadolu Agency/Getty-archive]

Israel has relentlessly bombed Gaza for over a week following a surprise attack inside Israeli territory launched by Palestinian armed group Hamas on 7 October.

More than 2,300 Palestinians have been killed in the besieged enclave, while the death toll from the attack in Israel is over 1,300. Israel has ordered more than a million people in north Gaza to evacuate and head south within the devastated strip, ahead of an expected ground invasion.

Here are comments made by five current and former Israeli officials about Palestinians in Gaza.

1. President Isaac Herzog

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said all Gazans were "responsible" for Hamas's surprise attack on Israel at a Friday press conference, the HuffPost news website reported.

He said: "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'état."

Herzog was asked by a journalist whether he was saying Gazans not toppling Hamas "made them, by implication, legitimate targets".

Herzog said he "didn't say" that, but added: "When you have a missile in your goddamn kitchen and you want to shoot it at me, am I allowed to defend myself?"

2. Former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon

Former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon suggested that Gazans should go to neighbouring Egypt's Sinai desert during an interview with Al Jazeera journalist Marc Lamont Hill recorded on Thursday.

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Lamont Hill said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had "told everyone to leave the area", asking Ayalon: "Where were they to go?"

Ayalon, a former Netanyahu foreign policy adviser, replied: "This is thought out. It's not something that we tell them, go to the beaches, go drown yourselves, God forbid, not at all."

Israel's north Gaza evacuation order was made on Friday and the UN said it was informed just before midnight in the enclave the day before.

But Netanyahu had previously vowed to destroy "all of the places which Hamas is deployed, hiding and operating in, that wicked city", calling on Gaza residents to "leave now because we will operate forcefully everywhere".

Ayalon said there is "almost endless space" in the Sinai desert, adding: "The idea is for them to leave over to the open areas where we and the international community will prepare the infrastructure, you know, tent cities with food and with water."

He said it was "not the first time it will be done" and compared the suggestion to Syrians fleeing the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad and finding refuge in Turkey.

Ayalon said a move of Gazans to Sinai would be temporary.

However, some 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed alongside the 1948 creation of the state of Israel during the Nakba ("catastrophe" in Arabic). They are still unable to return to their homes.

Most of Gaza's more than two million people are already refugees.

3. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday said he had ordered a full siege on the Gaza Strip, where almost half the population are children.

"There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel. Everything is closed," he said. "We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly."

Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, called the remarks "abhorrent".

"Depriving the population in an occupied territory of food and electricity is collective punishment, which is a war crime, as is using starvation as a weapon of war," he said.

"The International Criminal Court should take note of this call to commit a war crime."

4. Energy Minister Israel Katz

Energy Minister Israel Katz said on Thursday that there will be no humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza until Hamas releases the captives it took during its surprise attack last weekend.

"Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electric switch will be turned on, no water tap will be opened, and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home," he said in a statement.

On Friday, the day Israel made the evacuation order, Katz said his country will destroy Hamas and that Gazan civilians were ordered to leave immediately.

"We will win. They will not receive a drop of water or a single battery until they leave the world," he added.

5. Former prime minister Naftali Bennett

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett took issue after a journalist for British broadcaster Sky News asked him three questions about Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

After previous questions about how the Israeli army will ensure Palestinian civilians aren't harmed, the journalist turned to people in hospital on life support and babies in incubators who will see these systems "turned off because the Israelis have cut the power".

Bennett responded: "Are you seriously keeping on asking me about Palestinian civilians? What's wrong with you? Have you not seen what happened? We're fighting Nazis. We don't target them.

"Now, the world can come and bring them anything they want. If you wanna bring them electricity, I'm not gonna feed electricity or water to my enemies. If anyone else wants, that's fine. We're not responsible for them."

Agencies contributed to this story.