Israel rejects US call to review West Bank tactics

Prime Minister Yair Lapid says 'no one will dictate our rules of engagement to us'

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, centre, at a graduation ceremony for naval officers in Haifa, on September 7, 2022. AFP
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Israel on Wednesday rejected US calls to review rules of engagement in the occupied West Bank as it pressed on with a near-daily series of operations against militants in the area in which dozens of Palestinians have been killed.

"No one will dictate our rules of engagement to us, when we are the ones fighting for our lives," Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said at a military ceremony in Haifa, echoing earlier remarks by Defence Minister Benny Gantz.

"I will not allow an IDF [army] soldier that was protecting himself from terrorist fire to be prosecuted just to receive applause from abroad," Mr Lapid said. "No one will dictate our rules of engagement to us.

"Our soldiers have the full backing of the government of Israel and the people of Israel.”

The US State Department said on Tuesday that Washington will urge Israel to review rules of engagement practices after its military concluded that Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was probably shot unintentionally by an Israeli soldier.

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday underscored "the importance of accountability in this case ... to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future".

The Palestinians accused Israel of deliberately targeting Abu Akleh who was wearing a bulletproof vest marked "Press" and a helmet when she was shot in the head during the army operation in Jenin refugee camp, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on May 11.

The Israeli army on Monday conceded for the first time that one of its soldiers had probably shot Abu Akleh after having mistaken her for a militant.

"Israel has expressed sorrow over the journalist's death. It was a tragedy that transpired in an incident in which there was heavy enemy fire ... the [Israeli forces] never intentionally shoot at innocent people," Mr Lapid said.

Israel has stepped up its incursions into the West Bank since a wave of deadly Palestinian street attacks in Israeli cities. In the latest such raid, on Wednesday, Israeli troops killed a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

As part of near-nightly security sweeps, the army carried out arrests and searches in several locations, including the village of Tubas, where it said an improvised explosive device was thrown and shots were fired at soldiers, who returned fire.

Islamic Jihad said the man killed, Younis Tayeh, was a member and had died during clashes. Tayeh's family denied he had taken part and said he was crossing the street when shot.

In a separate incident, the military said a Palestinian used a hammer to attack a soldier who "responded with live fire and neutralised the suspect".

US-brokered peace talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem collapsed in 2014.

The diplomatic stagnation has helped to erode the credibility of the US-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), which has limited self-rule and security control in the West Bank.

Mr Gantz said the PA should do more to rein in militants. "The spread of weapons and lack of governance are harming the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority itself," Mr Gantz said.

The Palestine Liberation Organization's Wasel Abu Youssef described Mr Gantz's remarks as "desperate". "Israel alone bears the responsibility for the daily killings of our people," he said.

Updated: September 08, 2022, 7:04 AM
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