Wilders rebukes armed forces chief over hostage rescue comments

Photo: Arenda Oomen for Defensie.nl

Geert Wilders has attacked the head of the Dutch armed forces, Onno Eichelsheim, for suggesting that Israel used “disproportionate force” in its military campaign in Gaza.

Eichelsheim said in an interview for the NOS current affairs show that Israel may have “crossed a line” in an operation to rescue four hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas fighters at a music festival on October 7.

The general said it was “obviously great news” that the hostages were free, but noted that Gaza authorities reported 236 other people had died in the course of liberating them.

“If the damage is really so great, you have to ask if it’s in proportion,” he said.

“Israel says it will do everything to free its hostages. I think it’s complicated when you look at how much force is required to get there. At some point you cross a line in terms of the price you have to pay.”

Wilders posted on social media site X, better known as Twitter, that the general’s comments were “incomprehensible, inappropriate and wrong”.

“If I were defence minister, I would have taken him to task and corrected him,” he said.

Staunch defender

Wilders has been a staunch defender of Israel throughout his political career and an unwavering supporter of its military action in Gaza, in which between 24,000 and 37,000 people have died.

His comments will put pressure on defence minister Kajsa Ollongren to respond to Eichelsheim’s remarks, which go further than the outgoing government’s position on Israel.

Prime minister Mark Rutte and foreign affairs minister Hanke Bruis Slot have said Israel has the right to defend itself but must respect international law.

Both have pressed Israel to stop its attacks in the border city of Rafah, but said sanctions are not on the table.

The VVD party’s defence spokesman, Ruben Brekelmans, also criticised Eichelsheim for calling the use of force “disproportionate”, saying it was a legal question that should be decided by the courts.

“The commander of the armed forces does not have the necessary information at his disposal to make such a judgment,” Brekelmans said.

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