World Bulletin / News Desk
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that Israel should carry out a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip – similar to 2002's Operation "Defensive Shield" in the West Bank – in retaliation for the death of three Jewish settlers who Israel accuses Hamas of having abducted and killed.
"We can't bury our heads in the sand," Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Lieberman as saying. "Israel needs to carry out operation Defensive Shield 2, this time in Gaza."
Israel's top diplomat claimed there was a connection between the death of the three settlers and several rockets fired into Israel from Gaza since Sunday.
On Tuesday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with outgoing Israeli President Shimon Peres and President-elect Reuven Rivlin, attended a West Bank funeral procession for the three settlers, who were confirmed dead by Israel on Monday night.
Israeli media has reported that tens of thousands took part in the funeral.
On Monday night, the Israeli army confirmed that the three settlers – who went missing on June 12 from the Jewish-only Gush Etzion settlement near the West Bank city of Hebron – had been found dead near the city.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Gaza-based Palestinian faction Hamas – without producing any evidence to support the assertion – for the settlers' deaths.
Although no Palestinian group ever claimed responsibility for the settlers' disappearance, Netanyahu has repeatedly accused Hamas of having abducted and murdered them.
Israel's 2002 "Defensive Shield" operation was the largest Israeli military campaign in the West Bank since the Palestinian territories were first occupied during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
The 2002 operation, launched on the orders of then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, saw Israeli forces raid Ramallah and Al-Beira and place late Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat under siege.
The operation was staged during the Second Palestinian Intifada (uprising), which erupted in 2000 after Sharon paid a controversial visit to East Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site.
419 Palestinians arrested
Israel has arrested 419 Palestinians since three Jewish settlers went missing in the West Bank in mid-June, the Israeli army said on Tuesday.
In a statement, the army said that 335 Hamas operatives and 12 movement leaders have been arrested since June 12, when the three settlers were reported missing.
According to the army statement, among those arrested were 59 Palestinians released under a 2011 prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas.
The Israeli army also searched 2,200 sites since the settlers disappeared, the statement said.
Israelis attack Jerusalem Arabs
Angry Israelis gathered in West Jerusalem on Tuesday to protest the death of three Jewish settlers who were found dead one day earlier in the West Bank.
Chanting "death to Arabs" in the city's Zion Square, the Israeli crowd attacked three Palestinian passersby before police intervened to rescue the trio.
Demonstrators, some wearing badges reading "revenge," demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take harsher action against Palestinians in response to the death of the settlers.
Israeli police walked along the city's tramline to prevent possible anti-Palestinian attacks by angry Israelis.
The crowd nevertheless managed to attack a Palestinian tram passenger, who was sworn at and kicked.
Abbas denounces 'Israeli aggression' in letter to UN
The Palestinian State on Tuesday sent a letter to the UN reporting an “ongoing escalated Israeli aggression” against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza, U.S. media has reported.
Ambassador Riyad Mansour, the permanent observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, sent a letter on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Mansour informed UN that many Palestinians had either been killed or injured during Israeli bombardment on Gaza in the past two weeks.Last Mod: 02 Temmuz 2014, 09:44