Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared his country’s recent bombing campaign in Gaza to the U.S.-led strikes against militants in Iraq and Syria, saying Hamas and the Islamic State group share the same goal of world domination.
Addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, Netanyahu accused Hamas of committing “the real war crimes” in Gaza by using Palestinian civilians as human shields. It was an angry response to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the U.N. last week in which he accused Israel of conducting a “war of genocide” in Gaza.
Netanyahu railed against world leaders who have condemned Israel for its war with Hamas while praising President Barack Obama for attacking Islamic State militants and other extremists in Syria and Iraq.
They “evidently don’t understand that ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree,” the Israeli prime minister said, referring to the Islamic State group by one of its acronyms.
Netanyahu said the leaders of ISIS and Hamas share the same goal of imposing militant Islam on the world.
“Hamas’ immediately goal is to destroy Israel, but it has a broader objective,” he said. “When it comes to its ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS, and ISIS is Hamas.”
And turning to another regional rival, Netanyahu said Iran’s concern about the spread of terrorism is “one of history’s greatest displays of doubletalk.” He criticized the efforts of six world powers to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, saying, “to defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a potential nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war.”
On the latest war in Gaza, Netanyahu questioned how Israel can be accused of genocide when it gave advance warning to Gaza civilians before attacks on neighborhoods.
Holding up an image of what he said was a Hamas rocket launcher with children nearby, he said Hamas hid rockets in schools and homes and used civilians as human shields.
Israel “was doing everything to minimize civilian casualties. Hamas was doing everything to maximize civilian casualties,” he said.
During the 50-day Gaza war, which ended Aug. 26, Israel launched thousands of airstrikes against what it said were Hamas-linked targets in the densely populated coastal territory, while Gaza militants fired several thousand rockets at Israel. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, the vast majority civilians, and some 18,000 homes were destroyed, according to U.N. figures. Sixty-six soldiers and six civilians were killed on the Israeli side.
In his speech Friday, Abbas stopped short of saying he would pursue war crimes charges against Israel. He said he would ask the U.N. Security Council to dictate the ground rules for any talks with Israel, including setting a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian lands.
Earlier Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said it’s clear that Abbas has no intention of making peace with Israel, calling his speech to world leaders last week “a message of hatred and incitement.”
Lieberman also questioned Abbas’ legitimacy to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people, saying he doesn’t control the Gaza Strip, where Hamas remains in charge of security and elections have been postponed for more than four years.
Lieberman said Abbas has “lost his way.”
Mohammed Ishtayeh, an aide to Abbas, responded to Lieberman’s comments, saying: “If Lieberman and his government seek peace, why they are building settlements on our land? They left no land without settlements, no land for the Palestinians to live in.”
Ishtayeh added: “Lieberman was trying to cover the war crimes his government committed in Gaza, but we have prepared the indictment list to take Israel to the ICC,” using the acronym for the International Criminal Court. ”
The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world’s largest bloc of Islamic countries, has been lobbying Abbas to seek membership in international agencies, including the ICC. That would open the door to war crimes charges against Israel for its military actions in Gaza and Jewish settlement construction on West Bank land the Palestinians want for a future state.
However, Abbas’ speech last week made no mention of a bid to join the International Criminal Court or a deadline for ending the occupation.
Associated Press Writer Mohammed Daraghmeh contributed to this report from the United Nations.