Last updated: 25 December, 2013

Israel’s Netanyahu hits out at Abbas over attacks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed disappointment Wednesday that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has failed to condemn fresh attacks on Israelis, as a watchdog questioned the legality of Israeli reprisals.

An Israeli man was shot dead Tuesday while working on the border fence with the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli military retaliated with a wave of strikes that killed a toddler and wounded six other Palestinians.

The retaliation, which also came a day after a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli policeman in the West Bank, prompted an Israeli human rights group to demand a probe into what it called an “unlawful” attack on a civilian home.

“The terrorist attacks of recent days against Israelis are the direct result of incitement to hatred in the press and broadcast in Palestinian schools,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

The premier said he was “disappointed that president Abbas has not yet condemned the recent terrorist acts as one would expect from a partner in peace negotiations”.

Abbas governs autonomous areas of the West Bank, while the Gaza Strip has been controlled by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas since 2007.

In the statement posted Wednesday on his Facebook page, Netanyahu warned Israel would hit back hard against any attacks, saying: “I would not advise anyone to test us.”

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem meanwhile accused the Israeli military of firing three tank shells at a house about 500 metres (yards) from the border, killing a two-year-old girl as she played in the yard.

B’Tselem questioned the reason behind the attack on what it said was a family home, and cited the girl’s uncle as saying “there was no activity by armed Palestinians in the area at the time.”

It called on the Israeli military to open an investigation into what it called an illegal attack.

“Deliberate firing at a home occupied by civilians, without its inhabitants having been given any prior warning and without the military ensuring that the civilians have vacated the premises, as appears to be the case in this situation, is unlawful,” said B’Tselem.

“The military must launch an immediate investigation of the incident, including questioning those directly responsible for firing the shells as well as the senior commanders who ordered the attack,” said the group, which monitors rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories.