A senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the backlash against widely circulated photos and videos of Palestinian men stripped down to their underwear by the Israeli military, saying that “it’s the Middle East and it’s warmer here.”
Israeli forces in Gaza detained numerous Palestinian men, as seen in footage released by Israel’s Channel 11’s military correspondent on 7 December. The video displays the deliberate act of stripping the men’s clothes during their arrest in northern Gaza, despite their apparent lack of resistance.
Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s advisor, told Sky News’ Niall Paterson on 8 December that the experience of getting stripped naked “might not be pleasant, but it’s not the end of the world.”
The military was searching for concealed weapons based on “lists” and “intelligence information” of Hamas members, Regev explained. The group included journalists and family members of UN workers, among others.
The advisor also dismissed United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ statement that people in Gaza “are being told to move like human pinballs – ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival.”
Regev claimed that the secretary-general was wrong and has been for a while, stating that Guterres called for a ceasefire over a month ago and that Israel would not have retrieved hostages otherwise. Paterson did not ask Regev why he implies the hostages would not have been returned under the terms of a ceasefire agreement.
In addition, Regev claimed that the displacement of Palestinians should be seen positively, as the military is urging civilians to avoid combat areas to minimize casualties.
THE CONFLICT SO FAR
After a surprise attack conducted on 7 October by Hamas on a number of southern Israeli towns which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,200 people and more than 220 being taken hostage by Hamas, Israel launched a retaliatory bombing campaign against what it describes as ‘terrorist targets’ in the Gaza Strip.
Over 16,015 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip — including at least 7,000 children — and over 41,316 others injured. Meanwhile, at least 259 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and at least 3,365 have been injured.
The priority of the Egyptian government since the beginning of the conflict has been de-escalation and the securing of a path for aid to enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing. Israel bombed the crossing at least six times, and limited aid trucks have crossed to Gaza so far, which UN officials warn is insufficient amid dire humanitarian conditions.
Most Western countries, with the United States at the forefront, have expressed unconditional support for Israel, despite the steadily rising death toll in Gaza. Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly has issued a resolution calling for a ceasefire.