Tags: Exclusive Interviews | Israel | Middle East | Steve Malzberg Show | Israel | Gaza | Hamas

Israel's Aharoni: Ground Forces Only Way to End Hamas Conflict

By Todd Beamon   |   Friday, 18 Jul 2014 06:28 PM

The only way Israel can end the conflict with Hamas is through ground forces, Ido Aharoni, consul general of Israel, said on Newsmax TV.

"You have to use ground forces to put an end to it," Aharoni told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Friday. "You have to get it done with troops on the ground. You need to put boots on the ground."

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Israel intensified its land offensive in Gaza on Friday — with artillery, tanks, and gunboats — and warned that it could "significantly widen" an operation that Palestinian officials said was killing larger numbers of civilians.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel "chose to start this operation after we exhausted other options and reached the conclusion that without it we could pay a much higher price. The main goal is to restore quiet."

Aharoni told Malzberg that Israel's ground offensive was necessary because Hamas "actually took its entire terrorist infrastructure apparatus and brought it onto the ground. You have to be physically on the ground right there in order to destroy those tunnels.

"We're dealing with a network of 1,000 tunnels," he said. "They're well-built, they're deep. They penetrate into Israel's territory. They're being used as storage facility for rockets.

"Hamas has 12,000 rockets — and we had to endure 1,500 of them in the last 11 days."

The tunnels run throughout Gaza, Aharoni said.

"We're talking about community centers. We're talking about mosques, schools, private homes. … They go under the ground — and then they take a squad of terrorists, and they pop out of a tunnel near a military outpost, near a Jewish community, near a town, a school."

Aharoni noted that Israeli soldiers thwarted an attack by 13 Hamas terrorists Thursday on a community in southern Israel. They were caught leaving a tunnel and were fired upon immediately, killing five. Residents were on lockdown for several hours.

"It could have been a catastrophe for that particular community," he told Malzberg.

Despite the heightened Israeli offensive, "we're trying to minimize the collateral damage and loss of innocent lives — and it is perhaps one of the most transparent military operations of late," Aharoni said.

"The fact that we took the time to inform each and every neighborhood, each and every family, days before the incursion that a military operation is in the planning and that they are encouraged to leave their homes.

"Unfortunately," he said, "Hamas, in many of the cases, managed to prevent that, managed to make sure that they stay in their homes rather than leave them."

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