Israel defends attacks on Gaza
MANILA, Philippines - Israeli children who grow up knowing they can be the next target of Palestinian rockets are "emotional casualties" of the conflict, according to Israel's top diplomat in the Philippines.
"If you speak about the casualties, you also need to look on our side. You need to see how our children grow through this kind of situation," Israeli Ambassador Menashe Bar-On said in a #TalkThursday interview with Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.
Bar-On explained that Israeli children may not be physical casualties of war as much as Palestinian youths, but they also suffer and grow up with the stigma of living in fear.
"Imagine your son is born into a situation in which every night his mother needs to have 20 seconds to bring him to the shelter… These are emotional casualties. We can't see through the blood, but we can see it through our life."
Live in peace
Bar-On defended Israel's latest attack on the Gaza Strip and insisted the goal of Operation Pillar of Defense was to "end once and for all" the launching of rockets against Israeli civilians and annihilate the military infrastructure of Hamas.
"We want to be as much as other countries in the world, to leave in peace," he said.
Bar-On claimed that the Palestinians were also given the chance to have peace by "ruling themselves," but Hamas decided to invest the billions of dollars poured in by the European Union and the United Nations into more weapons instead of education.
"Instead of investing this money in education, they teach the children how to kill. The first present they receive from their parents is a gun."
Bar-On added: "That is not education for life, for progress, to give your family a better life. It is an education to kill others. This is the manifesto of Hamas."
Media not target but beware
Asked about the attacks against various buildings housing international journalists in Gaza, the diplomat reminded the media that "before hitting these buildings, we asked the people to leave. These buildings were deposits for ammunition."
"From the roof they launch missiles. Our military threw leaflets asking people to leave because this building was targeted" like other civilian structures -- hospitals, schools, houses -- he claimed Hamas occupies.
Bar-On denied that Israel considers Palestinian and Arab journalists as "terrorists" but warned the reporters: "If they stay with the terrorists and we ask them to leave, we cannot be blamed if something happens to them."
"Journalists must be neutral and protect themselves from disputed areas, and put themselves in disputed areas with exchange of fire," he said.
Filipinos 'human shields'?
Regarding the reports claiming that Filipinos were among the foreigners being prevented from leaving Gaza so they could be used as "human shields" by Hamas, Bar-On clarified that it was not Israel who blocked them from crossing the border.
"We know that some Filipinos, mostly Filipinas married to Palestinians, live in Gaza. The government was concerned because we know that Hamas prevented foreigners from leaving."
However, he stopped short of saying that Filipinos were in fact part of that group of foreign human shields.
"We don't know if they were Filipinos or not… We know that Hamas uses civilians as human shields, but we don't know about foreigners."
Ceasefire must 'give wisdom' to Palestinians
After a week of fighting and scores of dead on both sides, the Israeli ambassador said he hopes the ceasefire brokered by Egypt "will give wisdom to the Palestinians" so that the two nations may live in peace from now on.
The truce must give the Palestinians "the wisdom to ask those who control the region to change their ways." he said.
"The solution to this conflict is the 2-state solution. We can't move back 65 years."
Bar-On wished for a future in which the Palestinians will accept that the Palestine is the homeland for their people and the Israel the homeland for Jews. - Rappler.com