By Mick Krever, CNN
Criticism of Israel from some of its staunchest allies smacks of hypocrisy, the Israeli intelligence minister told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Monday.
“Sometimes I feel there is some hypocrisy in the criticism,” Yuval Steinitz said. “Maybe [the] United States, Britain, France, and NATO forces can teach us from their experience how to minimize collateral damage – for example, in their experience in Belgrade; their experience in Iraq; in Fallujah in Iraq; or in Afghanistan.”
“The IDF is doing more than any other armed forces, including Western armed forces, to minimize collateral damage.”
Also in an interview with Pleitgen, Palestinian Parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouti hit back at Steinitz.
“The Israeli intelligence minister does not seem to be intelligent enough to realize that the loss of 1,850 precious lives of Palestinian civilians, mostly, and the injury of 9,000 other civilians, is not and cannot be called ‘collateral damage.’ This is inhuman to call this suffering ‘collateral damage.’”
After the shelling of United Nations schools this weekend, the United States State Department had some of its harshest words yet for Israel.
“The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah,” it said. “The coordinates of the school, like all U.N. facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces. We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.”
Israel, of course, insists that Hamas purposefully fires rockets from civilian areas.
“This idea,” Steinitz said, “that if they are launching rockets from civilian neighborhoods or nearby, unfortunately, some schools or hospitals, then we cannot or should not defend ourselves? You know, what alternative to we have?”
Pleitgen put Israel’s claim to Barghouti.
“This is not true,” Barghouti said. “And this is an Israeli claim that has not been proven.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that a chief mission of the Israeli mission in Gaza is to destroy the extensive tunnel system that Hamas has built under the territory and into Israel.
Pleitgen asked the intelligence minister whether it was a failure of his ministry that it failed to recognized the extent of the tunnels before so-called Operation Protective Edge.
“We were very well aware of those tunnels,” he responded. “For the last three or four years, Hamas invested hundreds of millions of dollars in building this network of hundreds of tunnels … maybe ten or fifteen tunnels going into Israel, but many more inside Gaza.”