Benny Gantz: Election Ads for Centrist Boast 'Terrorist' Deaths and Bombing Gaza Areas 'To Stone Age' Under His Command

Operation Protective Edge Israel Gaza
A fire ball and smoke are seen during an Israeli strike on Gaza City early on July 26, 2014. GIL COHEN MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images

A former army general and prime ministerial candidate in the upcoming Israeli elections has launched a controversial PR campaign lauding the death and destruction inflicted on Palestinians during military campaigns he oversaw in the Gaza Strip.

Benny Gantz, the leader of the Israel Resilience party, released a series of militaristic videos Sunday with the title, "Only the strong survive," boasting of his military record and celebrating the deaths of Palestinian militants in Gaza, The Times of Israel reported.

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Two videos make reference to Operative Protective Edge—the 2014 war in Gaza in which thousands of Palestinians and dozens of Israelis were killed.

The first boasts of the 6,231 Hamas targets destroyed in the war, of which Gantz took command as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of the general staff. Video captions proudly state that "parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age" during the seven-week campaign, which involved intense aerial and artillery bombardment of the coastal enclave, as well as an incursion by ground troops.

A second video makes direct reference to the war's death toll. The video includes footage of Hamas funerals while a counter on the screen runs from 0 to 1,364—the number of militants the IDF claimed to have killed during Protective Edge. The video suggested the deaths directly led to "three and a half years of quiet" in Gaza following the conflict.

The official casualty figures published by Israel are disputed, and Gantz's total appears to include deaths of so-called "uncategorized males" aged between 16 and 50. This classification means Israel could not confirm whether they were militants or civilians.

Another video covers the 2012 assassination of Ahmed Jabari, then serving as the acting head of the Hamas military wing. The footage showed a car carrying Jabari—who masterminded the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit—making its way through Gaza City, before an airstrike ordered by Gantz obliterates the vehicle.

But a fourth video showed a more measured side to the military veteran, stressing the importance of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. "It's not shameful to be striving for peace," he explained in the video. "In another 25 years do we still want to be sending our children off to fight? No," Gantz added. "What will we tell them? That we didn't do anything? That we didn't try?"

"I can't accept that there will be an entire generation here without hope," he said. "It can be different here."

Gantz and his Israel Resilience party are polling well, though the Times noted the general-turned-politician has been guarded about many of his policy positions. According to Haaretz, Gantz and his colleagues are expected to pursue a centrist and moderate platform.

A poll published this weekend showed that Israel Resilience would be the third largest group if elections were held this week, winning 12 seats in the Knesset.