Israeli president Isaac Herzog says Gazans could have risen up to fight 'evil' Hamas

By ITV News International Affairs Editor, Rageh Omaar and News Editor Jessica Omari

President Isaac Herzog is Israel’s head of state. He spoke on Wednesday about what he called the largest single massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.

But when asked about the bombardment of Gaza and the humanitarian situation of civilians, his sadness turned to anger.

I asked him what Israel can do to alleviate the impact on the over two million civilians in Gaza, many of whom have nothing to do with Hamas. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Israel's President Isaac Herzog speaking to the media in Tel Aviv. Credit: AP

"We are working, operating militarily in terms according to rules of international law, period. Unequivocally.

"It is an entire nation out there that is responsible. It's not true this rhetoric about civilians not 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.

"But we are at war, we are defending our homes, we are protecting our homes, that's the truth and when a nation protects it's home it fights and we will fight until we break their back bone."

He acknowledged that many Gazans had nothing to do with Hamas but was adamant that others did.

"I agree there are many innocent Palestinians who don't agree with this, but if you have a missile in your goddamn kitchen and you want to shoot it at me, am I allowed to defend myself. We have to defend ourselves, we have the full right to do so."

It's only 10 miles from the heart of Jerusalem where President Herzog made those direct, emphatic, even angry remarks, to the Palestinian controlled city of Ramallah in the West Bank.

I was there to speak to Hanan Ashwari, who, for 30 years she was a peace negotiator with Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. I asked her for her reaction to President Herzog's comments. 

"I think the Israelis are totally flustered, disorganised and they don't know what to do with an emerging situation.

Hanan Ashwari says 'Israelis are totally flustered'. Credit: ITV News

"Until now, they really haven't pulled their act together and they don't have a question of real policy and what to do in the future. They're in shock, they want revenge."

"Matters are very tense and feelings are high and all of us are traumatised, I personally could not even bear to look at what's happening in Gaza and to see all the children pulled out of the rubble.

"When you have 1,200 or 1,300 people killed and more than two thirds of them are women and children, is this getting Hamas, is this killing Hamas?

"They want to turn Gaza into rubble? What will they get? Will they get any kind of resolution? 

"They have to come to terms with the Palestinians, we are not going away, we are not going to die, we are not going to exile ourselves and we are not going to accept to be held captive forever."

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