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Israel Embassy responds

Last updated: 2004-05-27

Israeli actions in Gaza

Israeli actions in Gaza

Following recent events with Israel going into Rafeh, the Israeli Embassy in London has sent the following letter to over 400 UK politicians. The letter is from Dan Shaham, director of public affairs. SomethingJewish publishes the letter in full.

From Dan Shaham, director of public affairs

Following recent events in Rafah, I would like to clarify some of the issues surrounding Israel's ongoing counter-terrorist operations.

For nearly four years, Israelis have been the victims of a relentless and ongoing campaign by Palestinian terrorists to spread death and destruction, condemning our region to ongoing turmoil, killing 977 Israelis and injuring more than 6000.

During this time, Israel has sought to find effective and lawful counter-measures to capture Palestinian terrorists who deliberately operate in densely populated civilian areas, in defiance of international law.

The town of Rafah illustrates this terrible phenomenon. Rafah serves as the entry point for smuggling weapons and ammunition from Egypt into Gaza. Since September 2000, 90 subterranean tunnels have been discovered underneath the "Philadelphi Route" located between Rafah and the Egyptian border. These tunnels have been used by Iran and Hizbullah, as well as by Palestinian terrorist organizations like Hamas and the PFLP for turning the Gaza Strip into a base for missile and rocket attacks against Israeli targets.

International Law makes it clear that the Palestinian use of civilian objects and dwellings to support a military attack constitutes a war crime. Yet the Rafah tunnels are typically dug underneath residential homes in blatant disregard for the safety and well being of Palestinian civilians. For detailed photos and descriptions of these tunnels, please visit

During the entire operation, a total of 56 houses were destroyed. One belonged to the terrorist who killed pregnant 34 year-old Tali Hatuel and her four young children three weeks ago. Twenty were destroyed in order to uncover two smuggling tunnels and to neutralise booby traps and bombs which had been planted by Palestinian terrorists. Twenty-nine were destroyed
because they were used as shelter by terrorists to shoot at Israeli soldiers, and a further six houses were destroyed in the Tel Sultan neighbourhood. The majority of these houses were little more than disused shells and were not lived in by civilians.

These measures are therefore not a form of "collective punishment" as some have claimed, and at no point does Israel seek to cause hardship to the population at large. Wherever possible Israel's security forces go to great lengths to minimise the effects on the civilian population. Last week, for example, over 40 lorries containing medical supplies and food were brought
into the town. At times, this humanitarian concern comes at the price of risking the lives of soldiers - two of whom were killed last week by Palestinian snipers while helping an elderly woman collect food from these lorries.
Of course, we would be the first to acknowledge that we do not always have the perfect solution to terrorism and sometimes innocent Palestinians are killed, for which we are deeply sorry. Yet under immensely difficult conditions, the Israel Defence Forces have sought to take action only when inaction would result in loss of more innocent lives in imminent terrorist

Israel has no dispute with the Palestinian people. Prime Minister Sharon has stated clearly that Israel believes in the vision of two states, side by side, in peace and security.  Our only dispute is with the terrorists, and with those who are determined not to create the Palestinian state, but to destroy the Jewish one.

Prime Minister Sharon has expressed his wish to withdraw from Gaza, a move which the international community agreed would improve the situation for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Yasser Arafat however, last week called upon his people to "terrorise the enemy and become martyrs."

No progress is possible in the region so long as the Palestinian Authority continues to use its position and its resources to encourage a campaign of violence and terror against the citizens of Israel. It is time for us all to realise that terrorism is the enemy of the Palestinian people no less than of Israel.

Yours sincerely

Dan Shaham
Director of Public Affairs