Former Israeli leader defends call to relocate one million civilians from Gaza

Former Israeli Leader Defends Call To Relocate One Million Civilians From Gaza
Palestinians displaced from their homes as a result of Israeli raids on October 13th, 2023 in Gaza City, Photo: Getty Images
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Vivienne Clarke

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has defended a call by Israel's military for all civilians of Gaza City, more than one million people, to relocate south within 24 hours, as it amassed tanks near Gaza ahead of an expected ground invasion.

Mr Olmert told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that they were trying to move civilians away from the conflict.


“We're trying to move the population a little bit out of the centre of towns so that we can reach out there without creating unnecessary collateral damage. So it will be inconvenient for the people there, but they will be out of the reach of the actual military confrontation between us and the Hamas, which are hiding in the centre of cities. So I think that's the purpose of what we are trying to do. We don't want to create unnecessary collateral damage. Definitely not.”

In response to a UN warning that the movement of one million people could have devastating humanitarian consequences, Mr Olmert said that the UN needed a reminder of the devastating humanitarian event that had happened last weekend in the southern part of Israel “where thousands of people were butchered and massacred, raped, beheaded by the extremists of Hamas. And hundreds and tens of thousands of people lost their homes. And we need to somehow make sure that this will not happen again.

“Or we tried to do this, I think, I'm not in charge of the government, I am presently an outside observer. An outside from the inside.”

Mr Olmert said that it was Hamas that had started the violent actions against Israel which had pulled out of Gaza 18 years ago and did not occupy “one centimetre” of the territory.


“Hamas started with violent actions against us, and they kept doing it for the last 18 years since we pulled out. These rockets, shooting across the border to Israeli towns. So the question is, what do you do? Well? Had you been doing it, had you been attacked in such a manner in where you live, in your houses, in your home, in your cities.

"This is something that must be done. We tried every possible avenue, in fact, the Israeli government is blamed and for good reasons for trying to appease Hamas in the last few years at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, which may be a partner for peace, which I tried to make peace with when I was prime minister, and to no avail. So something must be done. What we are trying to do is to separate between the civilians, the non involved civilians living in the West, in Gaza, from the terrorists.”

Public opinion

The former prime minister said that Hamas was trying to manipulate public opinion in order to defend themselves. The Israeli attacks were not indiscriminate, he said.

“We are focusing on the bunkers, on the headquarters, on the launching positions, the launching of missiles and rockets in Gaza and not in civilian centres. That's what we are trying to do. It's true that sometimes their headquarters are in the middle of cities and there is a certain collateral damage which we try to minimise to the maximum.”


Mr Olmert said that criticism by former Irish president and UN Commissioner Mary Robinson was “grossly exaggerated and unfair".

“I would expect Ms. Robinson to say, okay, what you would do when 1,500 citizens of your country are butchered, beheaded, are raped, are killed by these people? What would you do?”

Israel will do what it has to do to stop Hamas, he added. “We can't afford to ask ourselves what will the other terrorists and other killers and other butchers do if we defend ourselves? We have to do what we need to do. I think that Hezbollah in the north still remembers the encounter we had in 2006.

"At that time, I was prime minister and I remember that at the end of the confrontation, the then leader there, still leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Nasralla, said that had he known of one percent of what my reaction will be, it wouldn't have started. So I promise him that the reaction of Israel in the event that he will try now will be even harsher and it's better for him to stay away for another 17 years as he did in 2006.”


Mr Olmert said his dream was to make peace with the Palestinian Authority on the basis of two states, it was something he believed could be achieved.

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