Video: Tovah Lazaroff
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende ran to bomb shelters twice during their visit to Ashkelon on Wednesday, which Liberman called the best way to make Israel’s case in Operation Protective Edge.
The foreign ministers arrived at Barzilai Medical Center early Wednesday afternoon to visit Yarin Levy, the teenage boy severely wounded by shrapnel on Sunday.
Liberman took the opportunity to continue calling for a ground operation, though he was briefly interrupted by Levy’s gurney rolling by.
“Our main goal is to ensure the security of Israeli citizens.
We don’t want to conquer Gaza in order to stay or to build new towns there,” he explained. “Unfortunately, Hamas terrorists take civilians hostage. They use the people of Gaza as human shields. All missile storehouses and factories are hidden among civilians in schools and hospitals. That is why civilians get hurt.”
According to Liberman, this phenomenon can only be rooted out by a ground operation.
Liberman also pointed out that many in the international community call for Israel to return to pre-1967 lines, but that Israel did that in Gaza and received missiles shot at all of Israel in return.
“We need to neutralize their ability to launch missiles at any given moment to Israel... The international community should support Israel to ensure our citizens live in peace. No other country would accept missiles,” he said.
“I’m here to learn and see more of the current situation,” said Brende, whose country is the head of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee donor group for the Palestinians.
“We think it is of urgent importance to establish a cease-fire so we will not see more rockets in Israel and an end on the attacks and human suffering happening in Gaza.”
As they were speaking, the hospital worked to move its emergency room to its basement, where there is a bomb shelter, after a very large piece of shrapnel – the pointed head of a missile – fell in front of the regular emergency room on Tuesday.
Barzilai doctors treated over 200 patients for injuries related to rockets in recent weeks, including one severe injury – Levy – and one death on Tuesday.
After the two foreign ministers visited Levy, they went to lunch on Ashkelon’s shore. Their meal was interrupted by an air-raid siren, and they ran to the restaurant’s safe room.
When Brende and Liberman heard that an Ashkelon home, which also served as a children’s clinic, was directly hit by a Grad missile, they went to visit the victims.
As emergency staff, including police sappers, firefighters, electric company and tax authority workers, busily dealt with the aftermath of the missile’s hit, Liberman exhorted citizens of Israel to follow Home Front Command safety instructions. He commended the teenage girl who was in the house and remained unscathed because she entered a safe room.
The foreign minister barely finished speaking when another air-raid siren sounded and he and his Norwegian counterpart ran into that very same shelter in the home that was hit.
After several Iron Dome interceptions were heard and seen above the house, Liberman and Brende emerged.
“It’s sad to see a children’s clinic was partly destroyed by these rockets and while we were here more rockets were fired and we had to go to safety,” Brende said. “This is the reality people are facing in Israel and Gaza every day, and as I said to my colleague, it is important to end this as soon as possible.”
Brende called it “unfortunate” that no cease-fire has put an end to the human suffering from the situation.
When asked if he feels anxious or afraid, Brende said he realizes “it is very dramatic for people when their daily life is interrupted like this.”
Liberman said he is not sure if and when there will be a ground incursion into Gaza, but “we have to do everything to prevent these events from repeating themselves.
“A Hamas rocket hit a children’s clinic. Thank goodness it didn’t hurt any children, but there is nothing stronger that could show a visitor what we are experiencing,” Liberman added.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.