Israeli leader Netanyahu: I tried everything to avoid 2014 Gaza war

Responders comb the wreckage after an Israeli strike on Gaza in 2014

Responders comb the wreckage after an Israeli strike on Gaza in 2014

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he tried to avoid the 2014 Gaza war "as much as possible" and blamed Hamas for the conflict.

Netanyahu, speaking before a Knesset committee meeting to analyse the conflict, also revealed Barack Obama advised him not send ground troops into Gaza.

Israel launched an offensive codenamed Operation Protective Edge against Hamas, which governs the Gaza strip, following the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the summer of 2014.

The conflict, which witnessed regular aerial bombardments supplemented by a ground invasion, left more than 2,200 people dead and brought huge criticism of Israel from the international community.

But Mr Netanyahu told the committee he was desperate to pursue peace and only launched military action in response to Hamas raids and provocation.

"We tried our best to avoid a war in the south [Gaza]," Netanyahu said. "We are facing a very cruel and difficult enemy.

"We wanted to destroy Hamas' infrastructure in Judea and Samaria. This created instability in Gaza, and Hamas prepared plans to deal with it.

"My goal was to avoid war as much as possible. If we needed to go to war, we wanted to pay the minimum price required. And when I say 'price,' I mean every family's individual price, an entire world. I know the pain of war. We have an obligation to ensure the price of war is as low as possible."

Turning to his conversations with Washington, Netanyahu told the Knesset committee "I explained to President Obama that if they continue not accepting the ceasefires, we will have no choice but to send in ground forces.

"He told me, 'I am asking you not to send in ground forces.' And I said, 'I will do my best not to send them in, but if this continues, and the tunnels [from Gaza into Israel] continue to threaten us, we will have no choice but to go in.'"