Israel braces for diplomatic fallout from response to barrage of rockets

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan predictably slammed Israel.

May 6, 2019 01:17
A Palestinian boy looks at the remains of a building that was destroyed in Israeli air strikes, in G

A Palestinian boy looks at the remains of a building that was destroyed in Israeli air strikes, in Gaza City May 5, 2019. (photo credit: SUHAIB SALEM / REUTERS)

The Foreign Ministry is gearing up for negative fallout from Israel’s response to the rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip, though as of Sunday the story had not garnered too much media attention overseas.

The ministry, which has made clear that it expects the international community to condemn the indiscriminate terror from the terrorist organizations in Gaza, instructed Israel’s representatives abroad to stress that the IDF was responding to Palestinian Islamic Jihad [PIJ] and Hamas rocket fire, and that the terrorist organizations were committing a double war crime: “targeting Israeli civilians while firing rockets from within their own civilian population, which they are using as a human shield.”

The Ministry is also stressing Iran’s link to the violence, noting that Islamic Jihad acts as an Iranian proxy “against the interests of Gaza’s residents,” and that Hamas – which is “ruthlessly ruling” the coastal strip – bears responsibility for what happens inside Gaza. The ministry is stressing that Hamas, like Islamic Jihad, also “gets direct support from Iran.”

Israel’s representative have been instructed as well to stress that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are the “main barrier to the peaceful development of the Gaza Strip,” and “are endangering the lives of Gaza’s population, which is held captive under their murderous regime.”

Condemnations of the Palestinian rocket fire did come in from many quarters, with the US State Department taking the lead and issuing a statement saying that the US “strongly condemns the ongoing barrage of rocket attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from Gaza upon innocent civilians and their communities across Israel.”

US Mideast negotiator Jason Greenblatt pointed to the rocket attacks as a reason the Trump Administration’s long-awaited peace plan -- scheduled to be presented in June - focuses on Israeli security.

“Hamas & PIJ have fired over FIVE HUNDRED rockets @ #Israel, killing 3 Israelis/wounding many. When people ask why we’re focused on Israel’s security in our plan, this is 1 very important reason. Peace can only be built on truth & reality. Many try to pretend this away; we won’t,” he wrote in a tweet.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also condemned the rocket fire, saying that “indiscriminate rocket attacks from Palestinian militants in Gaza must stop immediately: the European Union reiterates its fundamental commitment to the security of Israel.

“We express our condolences to the family of all the victims and to the Israeli people, and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded,” the statement read. “These attacks provoke unspeakable suffering to the Israelis and serve only the cause of endless violence and of an endless conflict.”

What was telling in this statement is that it did not, as EU statements have often done in the past when dealing with violence from Gaza, call for a “proportionate” Israeli response.

The statement instead said that,  “A new escalation risks also to reverse the work to relieve the suffering of the people in Gaza who are already paying a high price with many victims that we mourn. And it puts in further danger the prospects for long-term solutions, which will require the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, credible security guarantees for Israel and a lifting of restrictions of access and movement.”

Condemnations and support for Israel’s right to defend itself came from many countries, including Germany, Austria, Italy, Estonia and Romania. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro posted on his personal Twitter account a harrowing video of a man driving with screaming, panicky children in his  car as a rocket hit nearby.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, a sharp critic of Israel, bewailed the “alarming escalation in Gaza and southern Israel,” and the “tragic loss of lives,” but made no mention of the indiscriminate fire on Israeli civilians.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan predictably slammed Israel.

“We strongly condemn Israel’s attack against Anadolu Agency’s office in Gaza,” Erdogan wrote on Twitter, referring to the IDF’s destruction Saturday of a multi-storey building in Gaza’s Rimal neighborhood that, along with the offices of the Turkish news agency,  the IDF said housed Hamas’ military intelligence and General Security offices.

“Turkey and Anadolu Agency will continue to tell the world about Israeli terrorism and atrocities in Gaza and other parts of Palestine despite such attacks,” Erdogan wrote.

And the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, according to the Petra news Agency,  warned of the “ramifications of  Israeli escalation in the besieged Gaza Strip,” and  “called on the international community to act immediately to stop the violence.”

A Foreign Ministry survey Sunday morning of the coverage in the international media of the escalation referred to it as “moderate, informative reporting based on the news agencies. Most of the reports mention the heavy [rocket] barrages and the IDF’s response.” The report noted that there have not yet been opinion pieces and analysis on the situation.

At the same time, the survey noted, there has been “some emphasis” on the killing of a Palestinian mother, Saba Abu Araar and her infant. Those deaths, the Foreign Ministry said, were caused not by Israel, but rather by errant Palestinian fire.

In the the US overall, the ministry report stated, by Sunday morning there had been “few and limited reports” of the escalation, with “even the most liberal media reporting that the IDF attacks in Gaza are in response to the rocket fire from there.”

The survey said that in Germany, as well, the cause of the escalation – the rocket attacks from Gaza – was reported, though “sometimes the number of rockets fired was either foggy or not mentioned.” The German media also wrote about the Eurovision angle in the escalation, quoting Islamic Jihad as saying that its goal was to interfere with the song contest.

Former Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley shared a video of the IDF, showing Hamas’ rockets launch and tweeted: “If this was any other country, the international community would raise havoc. No other country would sit back and take this. Why should Israel?” She also called the international community’s reaction “double standard.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, voiced his support as well and tweeted: “The US stands with Israel. She and her people have an inherent right to self-defense against these maniac terrorists who seek to wipe Israel off the map.” 

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) was among the first congressmen to address the rocket attack when tweeted Saturday: “Over 250 rockets fired at Israel again by terrorists from Gaza. This must stop now. Israel, like any country, has a right to defend itself against terror attacks.”

Omri Nehemians contributed to this report.

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