Shelling civilians is war crime - Israel AG
Aluf Benn  [Haaretz]

31 August 2004

The diplomatic-security cabinet has approved the defense establishment's plan of action against the launching of Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that the plan, though important, is insufficient, and demanded that the army submit additional proposals.

"If they are shelling us, we should shell them," he burst out at one point during the discussion yesterday.

But Attorney General Menachem Mazuz intervened. "That would be a war crime, on the part of both the state and you personally," he said, to which Sharon shot back: "It's only when Jews are killed that it's not a crime, and the whole world is silent? Killing Jews is permissible?"

"I'm not saying we shouldn't respond, but deliberately firing on civilians is a war crime," Mazuz responded.

"No one is talking about that," replied Sharon, echoed by Education Minister Limor Livnat. "No one is saying: `Open fire on Qalqilyah and whoever dies, dies.'"

The army's plan includes action against those who fire Qassams and their dispatchers, assaults on workshops where the rockets are made, seizing control of certain parts of the Gaza Strip, and applying pressure on other areas.

Interior Minister Avraham Poraz argued that prior to the disengagement from Gaza, Israel should exercise restraint.

"The attacks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were more serious than the firing on Sderot, painful though that is," he said. After the disengagement, he added, Israel should follow a policy of deterrence.

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