Israeli election hopeful brags about Gaza bombing in new campaign videos

Benny Gantz boasted that 'parts of Gaza were sent to the Stone Age'

Benny Gantz, a former Israeli armed forces chief and the head of a new political party, Israel Resilience, attends a handover ceremony for the incoming Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, at the Defense ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Powered by automated translation

The main political rival to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has released a series of campaign videos that boast about bombing campaigns in Gaza when he was chief of staff of the Israeli military.

Benny Gantz, the leader of the new Israel Resilience Party, unveiled the video under the name "Only the strong survive" in a bid to win over voters who have long placed security as the number one issue in Israel amid a decades-long conflict with the Palestinians and ongoing tensions with Iran and its Lebanese Shiite proxy group Hezbollah.

The release of the videos comes ahead of elections in April, called early by Mr Netanyahu in a bid to secure a fresh mandate against a potential indictment on corruption charges. Whoever wins, the candidate is unlikely to bring any more hope for Palestinians, who have faced a year of turmoil under the administration of US President Donald Trump.

One of the videos brags that Mr Gantz sent parts of the Gaza Strip "back to the Stone Age" in the 2014 war that left more than 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, dead.

It claims that he destroyed 6,231 targets connected to Hamas, the rulers of Gaza and says that he killed up to 1,364 Hamas members in that conflict. Israel regularly claims that civilians are "terrorists" for loose affiliations with Hamas. Even the Israeli Foreign Ministry puts the number lower at 936 Gazan fighters killed in the 2014 war. Around 428 Palestinians killed in the Gaza war were unrecognised individuals, according to the official Israeli count, which means that Mr Gantz has determined that they were all fighters, without any confirmation.

The video shows a counter of Hamas members killed, with video footage from their funerals.

Other footage used by Mr Gantz shows the area of Rafah in the Gaza war, a day after one of the most notorious incidents of the conflict, when Israel carpet bombed the district after they believed one of its soldiers haad been

Another video lauded his assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas' military wing, the Qassam Bridgades.


Read more:

Palestinian leader looks to UN for relevance with peace process moribund

UNRWA looks to Gulf countries for support in the long term

Saeb Erekat: Trump administration is trying to divide Palestinian leadership

Israeli soldiers kill three in Gaza and one in West Bank


Many in Israel had been speculating about what platform Mr Gantz would run on, given that he had previously spoken of hopes for peace with the Palestinians, a view that can traditionally harm candidates in Israeli politics, especially among right-wing voters.

But he placed himself firmly in the centre, pledged to be strong on security but that he would pursue peace with the Palestinians.

"It's not shameful to be striving for peace," he says in one of the videos.

"In another 25 years do we still want to be sending our children off to fight? No," he continued. "What we will we tell them? That we didn't do anything? That we didn't try?"

He has emerged as the primary challenger to Mr Netanyahu, who remains embroiled in several cases for alleged corruption. He is running on the slogan "Israel before all". He has told the Druze community that he would "fix" the Nation State law that has defined Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.

Mr Netanyahu is attempting to become the longest-serving leader in Israeli history, and if he secures a fifth term he will succeed.