Israeli minister justifies decision against toppling Hamas

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday his country took the right decision to refraining from toppling the Hamas regime during the recent Gaza war.

“It would have been a mistake to instruct the army to oust Hamas… all the cabinet ministers understood that it wasn’t worth removing them from power,” Ya’alon told a defence conference in Tel Aviv, according to an audio recording released by his office.

The remarks sharply contradicted comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, in his speech at the UN General Assembly Monday equated Hamas with the Islamic State radical Sunni militant group that has captured large parts of Syria and Iraq, saying they are “two branches of the same poisonous tree”.

Ya’alon, however, noted that Hamas’s presence in the West Bank was a source of destabilisation, cautioning that the Islamist militant group could potentially evolve into a branch of Iranian-backed global jihad, Xinhua reported.

“The moment it evolves into Hamastan it won’t be just Hamas, but an Iranian branch for global jihad. Who can accept such a situation?” he asked.

Ya’alon also said that Hamas “did not intend” to wage an all-out conflict with Israel in the days leading up to its military operation in Gaza, but rather planned to abduct Israelis.

He estimated that it would take “a long time” to conclude whether or not Israel succeeded in deterring Hamas.