In a daily press briefing on Monday afternoon, Israeli Government Spokesman Eylon Levy harshly criticized the United Nations for stymieing Israel's efforts to minimize civilian casualties in the war.
Levy stated that 112 hostages have now been returned alive from the Gaza Strip, including those released in the previous hostage deal in November, and Ori Megidish, who was rescued in October. The IDF has recovered the bodies of eight hostages killed in captivity, and three hostages were mistakenly killed by IDF soldiers in December. There are still 134 hostages in Gaza, of which, the Israeli government estimates that 31 of them are dead, with 103 still presumed living.
The government spokesman said Israel will not agree to a ceasefire that harms its war objectives.
“There will be no ceasefire that leaves the Hamas terror regime in power or the hostages in Gaza,” Levy stated.
Turning to the subject of Rafah, Levy laid harsh criticism against the UN, saying, Israel’s efforts to reduce civilian casualties have been “stymied by UN agencies.”
Levy referred to the “extensive measures” employed by Israel to reduce the number of civilians killed in the conflict.
“Those measures have brought the civilian-to-combatant ratio down to around one to one, unprecedented in the history of warfare,” Levy stated. “At every turn, however, we have been stymied by UN agencies more concerned with pressuring Israel to end the war with Hamas still standing than to protect civilians.”
According to Levy, the UN “has resisted our efforts to vacate civilians from Hamas strongholds,” and that the UN labeled the IDF's attempts to minimize civilian casualties “forced displacement.”
Levy also said that the UN shares “immense culpability for the tragic loss of life” of Gaza civilians, calling them “complicit with Hamas’ human shield strategy.”
The IDF’s invasion of Rafah is inevitable, he said, now that Israel is so close to defeating its enemy.
The international community must choose between saving Hamas or saving Palestinian civilians, Levy added.
“They cannot stop Israel from dismantling the last four Hamas battalions in the Gaza Strip,” Levy said, "but the decisions they make now can still protect civilians.”
The spokesman confirmed that Netanyahu had “instructed the IDF to present a plan for the evacuation of civilians from Rafah.”
“We urge UN agencies to cooperate with Israel’s efforts to protect civilians from Hamas and evacuate them from a war zone where terrorists are trying to use them as human shields,” Levy stated, noting that, until now, the UN has been cooperating with Hamas.
According to a report in the Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, Israel has reached agreements with the United States, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates regarding an evacuation plan for Gazan civilians in the southern town of Rafah, which would allow the IDF to soon begin its military operations.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.