Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The IDF was wrong to apologize for killing terrorists, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday morning, after the military said the deaths were not intentional, drawing sharp criticism from Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
“We must not apologize for our success in eliminating terrorists,” Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, tweeted. “I will clarify: These are terrorists who were digging a tunnel of death – in Israeli territory – which was meant to kill Israeli women and children.”
Bennett’s comment came after the IDF blew up a terror tunnel from Khan Younes, in Gaza, into Israel on Monday. The controlled explosion, as the military called it, was in Israeli territory. The blast resulted in the deaths of seven and injuries to nine Palestinian terrorists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including senior officials, and Hamas media said the terrorist group was weighing its response.
View from Gaza as IDF blows up Hamas tunnel reaching into Israeli territory, October 30, 2017. (Courtesy)
On Monday night, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said “there was no intention to harm any senior officials. The action was in our territory, and the people died in their territory.” Manelis added that the deaths came from smoke and dust inhalation and the tunnel collapsing, not from the blast itself.
Bennett, like Manelis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman before him, said Israel does not want an escalation.
However, he added: “The IDF’s goal is to defeat the enemy, and we must continue.”
Liberman blasted Bennett for his comments.
“A briefing from the IDF spokesman cannot be an excuse to bluntly attack the IDF and it’s commanders,” Liberman said on Facebook. “Expressions of this kind severely harm Israel’s security, the IDF and all of us. We will continue acting determinedly, forcefully and responsibly for the security of the citizens of Israel.”
Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern accused Bennett of playing politics while putting IDF soldiers at risk.
“In light of the repeated attacks by ministers on the IDF, I want to strengthen the Chief of Staff and IDF soldiers and commanders. No one apologized! The result of the IDF’s response is that we have seven dead terrorists and a quiet night in the towns near the Gaza border,” Stern said. “That is an excellent result.”
MK Tzipi Livni of Zionist Union said the IDF’s actions were “justified, sharp and of high quality.”
“We must continue to act against any threat, determinedly and with self-confidence, without unnecessary populist fury by members of the cabinet,” she added.