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MK Muhammad Barakeh (Hadash), along with three members of the Balad faction, visited Beit Hanun, and then proceeded to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The most resounding criticism of the attack came from the Knesset's Arab MKs, who called on Defense Minister Amir Peretz to resign. Deputy Knesset Speaker Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al), said that under Peretz's leadership the IDF had committed war crimes, and that the defense minister should be called into the Knesset to account for "the massacre."
Barakeh also condemned the attack as a "war crime," which he added was typical of the "cruelty of Israel."
MK Nadia Hilu, an Arab Christian representative of the Labor Party, said that she had woken Wednesday to a "black morning." "Once again innocent civilians and children are paying the price with their lives. Our leaders must wake up and understand that death brings only death and destruction brings only destruction."
The Meretz Party faction released a statement calling for the government to order an immediate cease-fire.
"The tragedy in Beit Hanun was foreseeable," said Meretz Chairman MK Yossi Beilin. "The moral and political price that the state will pay will be much higher than anything that was supposedly achieved by this operation."
Many MKs, however, were quick to defend the shelling as a "necessary act." MK Zvi Hendel (National Union-National Religious Party) called on the IDF to intensify the fight to wipe out terror bases.
"Despite the pain caused when people are killed during war, the Jewish morality based on which the IDF operates does not require a certificate of kashrut," said Hendel.
He was backed by several of his party members, including MK Uri Ariel who appealed to the government to take "more active" steps in the Gaza Strip such as retaking the Philadelphi Corridor.
MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) also defended the IDF, saying that the "responsibility lies with those who use civilians as 'human shields,' and not those who are fighting terrorists. With all the sorrow over civilian casualties, the responsibility for this tragedy rests solely on the shoulders of the terrorists, who use the citizens of Beit Hanun as human shields for their rocket attacks on Sderot."
Calls have already been sounded for the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to launch an inquiry.
MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) announced he would initiate an urgent meeting of the committee regarding the use of artillery fire in Gaza.
"As a man whose military profession was artillery, I warn that whoever uses inexact artillery fire near civilians is risking a war crime," said Cohen, who serves as a member of the committee. He added that he would call for an emergency meeting if the committee chairman MK Tzahi Hanegbi failed to place it on the committee agenda.
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