Strong French censure of IAF raid on Gaza irks J'lem

November 16, 2011 03:26

Head of France’s Gaza consular branch and members of his family injured in IAF airstrike.

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PM Netanyahu with French President Sarkozy [file]

PM Netanyahu with French President Nicolas Sarkozy 311. (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)

Jerusalem on Tuesday rebuffed sharp French criticism of an early-Monday IAF raid on a Hamas police compound near Gaza City that lightly injured a local employee of the French consulate living a few hundred meters from the target.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said at his daily press briefing in Paris Tuesday that the head of France’s Gaza consular branch and members of his family had been injured in the airstrike. A Hamas policeman was killed.

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The IAF raid came in response to a Kassam rocket that had been fired into Israel on Sunday.

“France strongly deplores the consequences of this air strike,” Valero said.

“While it is committed to Israel’s security, France reaffirms the urgent need to avoid any harm to civilians. This imperative was reaffirmed to the Israeli authorities.”

The spokesman said France maintained a presence in Gaza to support the civilian population, and was represented there through a consular branch and a cultural center.

The airstrike and its diplomatic aftermath came just days after an embarrassing light was shone on Israeli-Franco relations when French President Nicolas Sarkozy was overheard calling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a “liar.”

According to Israel’s clarification regarding Monday’s airstrike, the windows of the home of Majdi Shakoura, a Gaza resident who holds a French passport, were shattered by the blast, and he and another family member were lightly hurt by flying shards.

“We are obviously sorry for the light injuries incurred by the family, but the target of the attack, quite far away from their home, was a Hamas cell responsible for shooting rockets on Israeli civilians who suffer much more serious injuries – and even death – when Hamas rockets are fired,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

One Israeli official wondered aloud about the “disproportional nature” of the French response.

“Thousands of Israelis suffer injuries that are similar or much worse during rocket attacks from Gaza, and they don’t draw the same sympathetic remarks from the French that were elicited by this single family, who suffered very light injuries,” the official said.

In October, 52 rockets and six mortar shells were fired into Israel. The IDF said it would not tolerate continued rocket fire against Israeli cities and that Hamas would be held responsible for such attacks.

Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

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