VILNIUS – People do not distinguish between Palestinian rights and supporting Hamas, Israeli Ambassador to Lithuania Hadas Wittenberg Silverstein says.
"People don't really distinguish between rights for Palestinian people and between supporting a terrorist organization," she said after a meeting of the Lithuanian parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, adding that Israel is fighting Hamas, not Palestinian people.
"By now we are 18 days into this war. 1,400 people were killed. (...) They were beheaded, they were butchered, they were burnt alive. All this is happening while more than 7,700 rockets have been launched to Israel from various directions," the ambassador said, adding that Hamas is holding more than 220 people hostage.
Addressing the committee via videolink, Colonel Lieutenant Peter Lerner, spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, said freeing the hostages was a priority for Israel. In his words, the international community must recognize that Hamas cannot govern the Gaza Strip.
"They have done nothing good for their own people and they are only undermining regional security," he said. "A terrorist entity like Hamas can only invest in hate and death and destruction and does not invest in life of the people of the people that they supposed to govern."
Hamas invaded Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7 and killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and took 220 hostages. In response, the Jewish state launched a bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip where entire city blocks were razed to the ground. Nearly 5,800 people have been killed there, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday Israel's assault on Gaza violated international law, and he called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to provide aid.
For his part, Lerner says the key thing now is to protect the surrounding areas of Gaza, the communities, to rebuild the barrier and prevent people from returning to Gaza, to ensure that no new terrorists penetrate the barrier, and also to destroy Hamas.
"We are in the war that we did not choose, the war that terrorist organization decided to launch against Israel civilians, Israeli citizens, men, women and children," the IDF spokesman said.
In his words, Israel has mobilized 300,000 reservists to respond effectively to a possible escalation.
The country's army will launch a ground operation in the Gaza Strip when the government gives the green light.
"Second component would be optimal operational conditions," he said.