Palestinians targeting soldiers not terrorists: Israeli FM
Palestinians who attack Israeli soldiers cannot be labelled as terrorists, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in an interview with US television network ABC.
“Somebody who is fighting against Israeli soldiers is an enemy and we will fight back, but I believe that this not under the definition of terrorism, if the target is a soldier,” Livni said, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
In a later interview with Israeli public radio, Livni, also the justice minister, said a distinction should be made between Palestinians who attack soldiers and those who target civilians.
“We must say to the international community that terrorists who take the lives of civilians are terrorists, that you cannot justify their motivations,” she said.
Experts believe that the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, now in government after a landslide election victory, has changed resistance tactics, targeting only Israeli military targets within the territories occupied in 1967.
On the ground, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday his forces would intensify its bombardments of Gaza despite the recent deaths of two Palestinian children.
“Our operations are going to intensify,” he vowed.
Sixteen Palestinians have been killed since last week, by continuous Israeli strikes and tank shelling.
The latest victim was eight-year-old girl Hadil Ghaber who died on Monday, April 10, when an Israeli shell struck a house in Beit Lahiya.
A seven-year-old boy was also killed in an air strike on Friday.
The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees mission in Gaza, John Ging, expressed “great concern” over the situation after visiting UN-run schools which he feared could end up in the firing line.
“My reaction is to have an expression of very great concern. It is not at all acceptable that innocent lives are lost. I went to the schools (in Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiya) to see for myself the danger that the children are in from this shelling,” he said.
Israel withdrew all its ground troops from the Gaza Strip last September but its bombardments of the territory from the air and tank shelling from across the border have not ceased.
Livni acknowledged that such tactics could have tragic consequences as they obviously include innocent civilians who are considered “collateral damage”.
The number of Israeli reservists who refuse to do their military service in the occupied Palestinian territories is on the rise. Twenty-seven reserve and active duty airmen signed a letter in September 2003, refusing to carry out “immoral and illegal” raids on Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In November 2003, four former heads of the Israeli Shin Beth interior security services warned of the “disastrous” consequences of Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said the continued bombardment is designed to bring the Palestinian people to their knees.
“The bombardments in the north of the Gaza Strip and in Khan Yunis (south of Gaza)… are part of a political and economic siege of the Palestinian people,” he told the weekly cabinet meeting.
“This is an attempt to bring the Palestinian people to their knees and strangle the government which was democratically elected.”
Haniya also blasted a decision by the EU decision on Monday to suspend aid payments to his government, which follows a similar move by Washington last week.
“We can see that this decision as a green light for Israel to continue its aggressions and as a collective punishment on the Palestinian people over its democratic choice.”