Israeli officials expressed their regret in connection with the tragedy in Beit Hanoun, the Gaza Strip, when Israeli shells hit Palestinians’ homes Wednesday morning, killing at least 18 civilians, including women and children.
A communiqué signed by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that Israel was doing everything possible to avoid casualties. “Unfortunately, tragedies may occur sometimes. We are sorry about it,” the document runs. Officials from the Israeli Chief of Staff originally refused to comment on the tragedy. They later had to acknowledge that the Palestinians had been killed as a result of artillery mistake.
Israel has already withdrawn troops from Beit Hanoun, news agencies report. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, head of the Hamas-led government condemned the attack as a "massacre" and demanded an emergency UN Security Council meeting to halt Israeli attacks. Eyewitnesses said that people ran out into the streets when the first shell hit one of the houses. Another shell fell on those people in the street soon afterwards.
It was one of the largest operations which Israel conducted in the Gaza Strip after the expulsion of Jewish settlements from the region.
Officials from the Russian Foreign Ministry harshly criticized the Israeli government for the recent tragedy in the Gaza Strip. “We believe that the actions of the Israeli army do not correspond to its purposes to defend the Israeli territory against terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip. It goes without saying that it can only exacerbate the situation in the relations between Israel and Palestine,” a statement released by the Foreign Ministry of Russia said. “We urge the two sides of the conflict to end mutual attacks in which innocent people are killed,” the document said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry lays responsibility on Palestinian extremist organizations too. “In our opinion, Gaza-based extremist groups are also responsible for the ongoing crisis. They push Israeli authorities towards military actions with their ongoing missile attacks against Israel,” the statement from the ministry runs.
In the meantime, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh stated that various Palestinian movements had suspended their talks on the establishment of the national unity government. Haniyeh added that the dialogue with the leader of the Palestinian national administration, Mahmoud Abbas, would be continued.
Mahmoud Abbas said that the latest Israeli strike was a violent attack against Palestinian civilians. Abbas stated that Israel does not want peace, security and stability. “It seems that Israel is comfortable with the current situation,” Abbas stated, “therefore, it is carrying barbarian acts without anything to stop it,” the Palestinian leader added.
Foreign ministers of the four countries participating in the talks on the regulation of the Middle East crisis are to gather in Egypt, Cairo, on November 16 to discuss the explosive situation in the region.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov