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Children stand near a damaged building following Israeli airstrikes on an apartment of an Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza City Alamy Stock Photo
Gaza

Israel defends fatal airstrikes on Gaza as Tánaiste says killing of civilians 'never acceptable'

The Gaza health ministry said four children were among those killed.

LAST UPDATE | 9 May 2023

ISRAEL HAS TOLD a UN meeting it was justified in carrying out deadly strikes on Gaza which killed 13 people, including several children.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has condemned the strikes. 

Following the pre-dawn strikes, a representative for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) maintained the attacks adhered to the law of armed conflict.

“Today, following months of attacks against Israeli citizens, Israel began a campaign, Operation ‘Shield and Arrow’, against Islamic Jihad military targets, which is conducted in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict,” Avishai Kaplan, with the IDF’s International Law Department, told the UN Human Rights Council.

“Israel directs these attacks only against military targets and takes all feasible precautions to mitigate harm to civilians.”

The Israeli army said that in its Gaza air strikes, it had targeted three leaders of Islamic Jihad, which it considers a terrorist group, as well as its “weapon manufacturing sites”.

The Gaza health ministry said four children were among those killed and 20 people were wounded, some of them in serious or critical condition, after the attacks which left buildings ablaze and reduced others to rubble.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nation in Geneva Meirav Eilon Shahar insisted to the UN that the strikes were aimed “to restore peace and security to the citizens of Israel”.

“We will not let these terrorist groups undermine the very strive to coexistence we all wish to achieve.”

The Israeli representatives’ comments came during a so-called Universal Periodic Review – a process all 193 UN countries must undergo every four years – where Israel saw its rights record harshly criticised.

palestinian-paramedics-inspect-damage-in-a-building-following-israeli-airstrikes-on-an-apartment-of-an-islamic-jihad-commander-in-gaza-city-israeli-air-strikes-killed-13-people-before-dawn-on-may-9 Palestinian paramedics inspect damage in a building following Israeli airstrikes on an apartment of an Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza City Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Growing tension in the region is linked to increasing violence in the occupied West Bank, where Israel has been conducting near daily raids for the past months to detain Palestinians suspected in planning or carrying out attacks.

In anticipation of Palestinian rocket attacks in response to the airstrikes, the Israeli military issued instructions advising communities within 25 miles of Gaza to stay close to designated bomb shelters.

In a statement this afternoon, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he “deeply regrets” the loss of life in Gaza today. 

“The killing of civilians, including children, is never acceptable. These acts risk escalating the situation and leading to further violence,” Martin said.

“My thoughts are with the families of the deceased, and all those whose lives have been impacted,” he said. 

“I condemn all acts of terrorism, including the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel. I call on the parties to deescalate and refrain from provocative acts. This violence must end,” he added. 

Martin also said that the “deteroriating security situation highlights once again the need to restore a political horizon and a credible peace process”. 

‘One-sided’

Many of the nearly 90 countries that took the floor at today’s UN meeting expressed alarm about escalating violence and condemned abuses against Palestinians.

Some, like the Palestinian representative, and those of Qatar and Namibia, demanded an end to Israel’s “apartheid regime”, while China’s representative maintained the country was “plagued by racism and xenophobia”.

Eilon Shahar insisted that Israel did “not shy away from criticism”, but reiterated her country’s frequent complaint that it is subjected to “one-sided, ongoing discriminatory treatment” at the rights council.

Many of the diplomates who spoke up decried controversial judicial reform plans, as weeks of mass protests continue, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shelving the overhaul more than a month ago.

US ambassador Michele Taylor called on Israel to “ensure the continued independence and impartiality of the judiciary”.

Others, like New Zealand’s ambassador Lucy Duncan, voiced particular concern “about proposed new legislation that would reinstate the death penalty in Israel”.

Diplomats also decried Israel’s settlement expansion policies, forced evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes, and demanded investigations of settler attacks on Palestinians.

“We recommend that Israel … reverse its policy of settlement expansion,” British ambassador Simon Manley told the council, while Canada’s ambassador Leslie Norton demanded that Israel “thoroughly investigate and prosecute cases of extremist settler violence in the West Bank to ensure those who commit these crimes are held to account.”

Includes reporting by Press Asscociation and – © AFP 2023

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