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Israeli AG: Sharon Post-Retreat Plan A "War Crime"

[The Hebrew Haaretz article below is datelined 22:42 30/08/2004 (5.42am Melbourne/AET) . Three hours later there is no sign of a report on this incident in English either in Haaretz or through Google News search - I've thus translated it quickly.

It's worth bearing on the mentality of Sharon who doesn't really resile from his initial suggestion. Qalqilya is on the West Bank not the Gaza strip. In other words if the Palestinian fire Qassem rockets at the people of Sderot (Total fatalities in last two years –two) then Israel can use the IDF to shell the people of Gaza.

Somehow the possibility of a self-censorship by Haaretz has occurred to me. The paper may come good later in the day, but otherwise it wouldn't be the first time that such a story wasn't selected for translation. - Sol Salbe]

Stop Press: The right-wing Israel Insider has just covered the story from its point of view . see report below

SHARON: WE'VE GOT TO SHELL GAZA IN RESPONSE TO QASSEM ROCKETS;

MAZUZ: THAT WILL BE A WAR CRIME

By Aluf Ben

The cabinet approved the defence establishment's plan against the rockets. The PM, however, said that the steps are insufficient and demanded additional proposals. The PM to Mazuz: "When they kill Jews the whole world is silent - that's not a crime, isn't it?"

The security cabinet approved today (Monday) the defence establishment's counter-plans against the firing of Qassem rockets from the Gaza strip. The Defence Minister, Shaul Mofaz presented the plan. It included operations against the actual firing crews and their higher echelons. Also scheduled were direct attacks on the lathes and workshops that produce the rockets and the re-occupation of certain regions of the Gaza strip. Pressure was also to be applied in other areas. The Prime Minister said that the steps proposed were significant but insufficient. He demanded to be presented with additional proposals.

Sharon was in a foul mood during the deliberations and said: "If they shell us we've got to shell them." The Attorney-General, Meni Mazuz, intervened and said: "That will be a war crime, on behalf of the state and also on a personal level." Sharon responded: "When they kill Jews the whole world is silent - that's not a crime, isn't it? " Mazuz continued "I am not saying that we shouldn't respond but the direct targeting of civilians is a war crime." Sharon and [Education] Minister [Limor] Livnat replied: "No one is suggesting that. No one is suggesting we hit Qalqilya and ignore the consequences."

Minister Avraham Poraz (Shinui) argued in favour of restraint in the period leading to the disengagement. "The bombing in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem were far more serious than the rockets that hit Sderot, painful as these may be. According to him, after the disengagement Israel should apply the same kind of deterrent policy that it applied following its withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

[Rest of article deals with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer visit to Israel.]

Attorney General calls Sharon's post-retreat defense plan a "war crime"

By Dr. Aaron Lerner August 31, 2004

Israel Radio reported this evening that during the course of the meeting of the defense cabinet today, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz warned that it would be a "war crime" if any civilians were hurt as a result of an Israeli bombing response to Palestinian attacks. The issue came up when Prime Minister Sharon suggested that every time Israel is hit that Israel should respond by shelling Palestinian targets.

A key element of Israel's post-retreat defense strategy is the use of air strikes and artillery strikes against terrorists and terror targets.

Ground activity after the retreat would be extremely difficult and costly since the evacuated areas would have considerably larger and better equipped Palestinian forces deployed within them -- forces that would no doubt also erect various defensive structures and preposition explosives for use against Israeli ground forces. Post retreat ground operations would also be problematic due to the likelihood that ground forces may clash with third party observers in the area. Ground operations also take a considerable amount of time to carry out - thus providing the Palestinian entity in the evacuated area with time to move against the operation on the diplomatic level (e.g. UN) while the operation is still underway.

NFC (news First Class) editor Yoav Yitzhak reports this evening that Sharon responded to Mazuz's warning by saying "and murdering Jews is permissible?

That isn't a crime?" but that Mazuz stood his ground, warning again that shooting at civilians is a war crime.

While Mazuz's position effectively undermines a key assumption of retreat supporters: there is no indication that this will have any impact on the positions taken by ministers regarding retreat since many of the ministers who now vote in favor of retreat do so out of political considerations rather than on the basis of the merits of the retreat plan itself.

ENDS

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