Consul General Tells CBS4 Israel Trying To Minimize Civilian Casualties
DENVER (CBS4) – Violence is escalating in the Middle East as fighting continues between Israeli and Hamas fighters.
Monday was the sixth day of air strikes in Gaza. One-hundred Palestinians have died and officials say half of them were civilians. Three Israelis were killed.
Hamas fighters have launched more than 1,000 rockets into Israel. Both sides say they want a diplomatic solution and Egypt is leading efforts to mediate a cease-fire.
CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd spoke with Israeli Consul General David Siegel on Monday. He said under the conditions set by Hamas a truce isn’t likely. Hamas has demanded Israel lift its blockade of Gaza and Israel flatly refused. Israel says it will cripple Hamas once and for all.
“We are prepared to take any measure to protect our population,” Siegel said.
Siegel said they are trying to minimize civilian casualties. But he said Hamas is using its people as human shields.
“The terrorists are hiding these rocket launchers deep within civilian areas in mosques and schools and people’s homes, firing them at our civilians, so it’s very hard to get to this equipment,” Siegel said.
With the Arab spring, the regional backdrop has changed dramatically since the last war. Hamas has more friends in power and more access to weapons.
“They fired at the holy city of Jerusalem for first time in half a century on Friday, so you can see changes in the region, the flowing of weapons in Jihadists across the Middle East because of the breakdown of all these societies,” Siegel said.
Siegel said the Israelis are worried that Hezbollah could fire missiles from Lebanon and Iran could jump in.
“You can see now why we’re so concerned about an Iranian nuclear weapons system with all the terror networks in the Middle East,” Siegel said. “We’re seeing Lebanon, Syria all heat up. We hope very much that the violence is contained to the Gaza Strip.”
He said U.S. support is a strong deterrent, but a peaceful resolution appears elusive.
“We can’t negotiate with terrorists any more than the United States would be expected to negotiate with al-Qaeda.”
Israel says if it lifts the blockade of Gaza Hamas will only boost its arsenal. Hamas says if it isn’t lifted there will be no cease fire. Both sides are unyielding.
Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner and Sen. Mark Udall defended Israel on Monday. Udall says Hamas doesn’t seem to realize every rocket it fires sets back its cause.