Israeli Defense Chief: Hamas Leaders 'Bunch of Cannibals Who Use Children as Ammunition'

Avigdor Lieberman tours Gaza border two days after 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire near fence as tens of thousands demonstrated

Avigdor Lieberman near the Israel-Gaza border on May 16, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The leaders of Hamas are "a bunch of cannibals who also treat their own children as ammunition," Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman as he toured of the Gaza border area on Wednesday, two days after Israeli troops killed 60 Palestinians who were among tens of thousands demonstrating. 

"Their goal is to lift the siege on Gaza, but not to build an economy or to speak about coexistence," Lieberman said. "They need to lift the siege so they can smuggle weapons, continue to build up [their] power," yet they remain unwilling to recognize Israel, he said.

Lieberman also referred to criticism of troops' conduct on Monday and Palestinian discussions of turning to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, saying: "I suggest that everyone think about what would have happened if that rabble had succeeded in violating sovereignty and breaking into one of the communities." 

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He asserted that the military "has acted in accordance with ethical norms that we have not seen anywhere else in the world."  Lieberman accused critics of hypocrisy and said he has never heard critics of the army's conduct condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad over the deaths of 600,000 people in Syria. "Every day in the Middle East, more than 100 people are murdered," he said.

Commenting on the relative quiet on the Gaza border on Tuesday, Lieberman said there should be "no illusions" that Hamas has not given up its intentions to foment disturbances of the peace and "terror processions," as he called the marches near the border. "But first of all, they have sustained a serious, significant blow," which Lieberman said caused them to make a retreat.

On reports of unofficial channels of contact with Hamas, Lieberman said most of the emissaries represent only themselves and nothing substantial has come of their activities. "Our proposal remains openly and transparently on the table: rehabilitation [of Gaza] in exchange for demilitarization. It is not acceptable for them to be get quiet and a lifting of the siege only to continue building their power and smuggling weapons."

Particularly since the Islamist Hamas movement forcibly took control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007, Israel has restricted the movement of people and goods in and our of the coast enclave. Egypt, which also shares a short border with Gaza, also restricts  movement over its border.

As Haaretz has reported, between Monday evening and Tuesday morning, Hamas conveyed a series of messages to Israel via Egyptian intelligence official, apparently as well as mediation by the Gulf state of Qatar through which the group indicated that it wishes to rein in the violence following Monday's bloodshed. 

Meanwhile, Hamas refused on Tuesday to accept two trucks full of medical equipment offered by the Israel Defense Forces. Following the reopening of the Kerem Shalom crossing to vehicles transporting goods, trucks carrying medical equipment and basic necessities arrived, including four from the Palestinian Authority, two from UNICEF, and two from the IDF. Hamas refused to accept the military's equipment and instructed personnel not to unload it.

The Palestinian Health Ministry on Tuesday urged the world to send aid to Gaza in the form of medical equipment to help the enclave's overburdened hospitals. Hamas's refusal to accept the Israeli may stem from security considerations.