03-25-2009, 06:37 PM
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Joined: Aug 2006
Israel admits killing 189 children in Gaza campaign
Quote:The first official figures released by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) of the casualties inflicted by the three-week campaign found that a total of 309 Palestinian civilians were killed. But the IDF said that armed fighters from Hamas and other militant movements accounted for most of the 1,370 dead.
The survey was disclosed as Benjamin Netanyahu, the incoming prime minister, presented himself as a peacemaker and assured Palestinians that his government would be their "partner". One day after enlisting the Labour Party into a broad coalition, embracing Left and Right, Mr Netanyahu focused on his plans to help the Palestinian economy.
"I think that the Palestinians should understand that they have in our government a partner for peace, for security and for rapid economic development of the Palestinian economy," said Mr Netanyahu while addressing a conference designed to win investment for both Israel and the Palestinian territories.
"Peace: It's not the last goal. It's a common and enduring goal for all Israelis and all Israeli governments - mine included," he added.
But Mr Netanyahu did not go as far as to endorse a two-state solution, which forms the essential foundation for America's plans for a peace settlement. In the past, he has consistently opposed the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza.
But the new coalition, which will formally assume office next week, appears to have saved Mr Netanyahu from one of his worst fears: leading a narrow, Right-wing government entirely reliant on religious and nationalist parties for survival. It was precisely such a hardline government that poisoned his relations with America and eventually collapsed under him the last time he served as prime minister between 1996 and 1999.
Had he formed another administration of this kind, Mr Netanyahu would have been on a collision course with President Barack Obama, something he is anxious to avoid.
Under the coalition deal with Labour, Mr Netanyahu's Right-wing Likud party will adhere to previous international agreements made by Israel. This formula may leave open a window for a deal on Palestinian statehood.
But Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, said that Mr Netanyahu would be judged by results. "Any Israeli government that accepts the two-state solution, negotiates with us on all core issues without exception, and agrees to stop settlement activity will be a partner," he said. "It's time for deeds from both sides as far as their commitments are concerned, not words."
Even as Mr Netanyahu was addressing the conference, however, Israel's Army Radio reported that he had agreed to build more homes inside Jewish settlements on the West Bank inside an area known as E-1, a few miles east of Jerusalem. Construction in this vital region could sever the West Bank in two, making the creation of a viable Palestinian state even more difficult.
The radio station said this was part of a secret agreement with Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, who is likely to be foreign minister in the new coalition.
The IDF's survey of the casualties in Gaza found that 1,370 Palestinians were killed in the campaign, which began on Dec 27 after years of rocket fire into Israel's southern cities. Of these, some 600 were guerrillas and another 320 were unidentified and designated simply as "unaffiliated".
Palestinian estimates for total number of dead are broadly consistent with the IDF's figures. But the two sides differ sharply over the number of civilian casualties, with Palestinian estimates suggesting that more than half of those who died were innocent bystanders.
There is a crucial difference in how the two sides classify casualties. The IDF defines anyone under the age of 15 as a child and admits that 189 were killed. The Palestinian authorities list anyone under the age of 18 as a child.
Another point of contention is over how to identify the 200 Palestinian policemen who were killed in the first day of the fighting during an Israeli air raid on a graduation ceremony in Gaza City. Israel categorises them as Hamas fighters on the grounds that Hamas governs Gaza and controls the police.
The IDF figures also include 14 members of the Palestinian Fatah faction who were executed by their Hamas rivals.
The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall. - Che Guevara
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