Israeli Ambassador to Japan Vows to ‘De-Militarize’ Hamas, Free Hostages

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Israeli Ambassador to Japan Gilad Cohen speaks at the National Press Club in Tokyo on Thursday.

Israeli Ambassador to Japan Gilad Cohen on Thursday denounced the recent attacks by Hamas and vowed to “demilitarize” the Islamist militant group and release Israelis whom it had taken hostage.

Speaking at a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Cohen referred to Hamas as “pure vicious terrorists.”

“Hamas had only one thing in mind, to kill innocent Jews and Israelis, to kidnap them and murder them. They are similar to ISIS,” the ambassador said, referring to the extremist group Islamic State. “We want to demilitarize Hamas and liberate the kidnapped people.”

Cohen met with the vice minister of Japan’s Foreign Ministry, Masataka Okano, on Wednesday. During their talks, Okano “unequivocally condemned the recent terror attacks,” Cohen said, and supported Israel’s right to defend itself.

Cohen expressed his gratitude for Japan’s support of Israel’s position. “I would like to thank the government of Japan for standing on the right side of history. It is very important for us,” he said. “We need Japan’s support in the future at the Security Council.”

In retaliation for the Hamas attacks, Israel has conducted heavy airstrikes on the Gaza strip and the death toll is mounting. Israel is also confronting the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah at the northern border region with Lebanon.

Cohen defended the bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli military, saying one of its goals was “to make sure the terror attacks against Israel will never happen again, and not to open another front with Hezbollah.”

As for the civilian casualties in Gaza, Cohen blamed Hamas, saying it was using civilians as human shields.

Regarding the possible impact on relations and efforts to normalize relations with Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Cohen emphasized Israel’s intention to “maintain the peace agreement” with regional Arab countries such as Jordan and Egypt, UAE and “to expand in the future.”