Israel will be able to do what it needs to defend itself even after condemning Russia for committing war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday.
"We will continue to act everywhere in the Middle East where we need to act,” Gantz told Kan Radio when asked whether Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s condemnation will impact coordination with Russia in Syria
Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria, in order to prevent the Islamic Republic from entrenching itself near Israel’s northern border or transferring weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Lapid said on Sunday that “It is impossible to remain indifferent in the face of the horrific images from the city of Bucha near Kyiv, from after the Russian army left. Intentionally harming a civilian population is a war crime and I strongly condemn it.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz joined Lapid on Monday, saying: "I condemn murder of this kind; it really is a war crime.
"Even in war, we must make sure to follow the values that are called morality in fighting," Gantz told Kan Radio. "Unfortunately, civilians can be harmed in the framework of war, but they cannot be murdered as part of a war. This is something that looks very serious."
Corpses were found in the streets of Bucha, outside of Kyiv, shortly after Ukraine retook the town from Russian forces over the weekend.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that hundreds of dead bodies of civilians were found.
Bucha massacre proves that Russian hatred towards Ukrainians is beyond anything Europe has seen since WWII. The only way to stop this: help Ukraine kick Russians out as soon as possible. Partners know our needs. Tanks, combat aircraft, heavy air defense systems. Provide them NOW. pic.twitter.com/LX5S3KVrwD— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) April 3, 2022
Photos released of the incident show that Russian forces organized the killing of civilians in Bucha by a gunshot with their hands tied behind their backs, according to a report by The Kyiv Independent. Similar killings took place in the city of Irpin, the report added.
Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky also tweeted on Sunday that the Bucha massacre was "a war crime and cannot be justified."
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, however, refused to condemn Russia for war crimes, taking a neutral stance.
“We all condemn war crimes,” Liberman told Army Radio in response to a question about the massacre. “There are mutual accusations here – Ukraine blames Russia and Russia blames Ukraine.”
Rather than condemn one side, Liberman said, “we need to understand there is a bloody war there and we need to maintain Israel’s moral position and, at the same time, our interests.”
Asked about his comment on Kan Radio hours later, Liberman persisted to say only that there were “difficult images” from Bucha.
“My priorities are clear,” Liberman said. “First and foremost, we have to deal with threats to Israel.
The primary threat, the finance minister said, is that world powers may sign a nuclear deal with Iran “that lets the ayatollahs…earn $300 million each day from gas and oil. We will see that money in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq and Yemen.”
Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk invited Liberman to visit Ukraine.
“We will take him with a convoy to Bucha and to other places where he can see for himself the bodies of civilians and meet the women who were tied up and raped. Maybe then he will know what happened,” the ambassador wrote on Facebook
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai called for an international investigation into the war crimes taking place in Ukraine.
"The State of Israel must take an unequivocal position," said Shai. "Only international pressure from governments, organizations and public opinion will stop Russia. Now is the time to act, for the benefit of us all."
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.