Israeli Ambassador to Finland, Shemi Tzur, responds elequently to a highly critical op-ed by the Helsingin Sanomat’s chief foreign news editor, Kari Huhta. The Ambassador’s opinion editorial was published in today’s Helsingin Sanomat(24.07.06), Finland’s premier newspaper. KGS
I would like to refer to the viewpoint by Kari Huhta published in Helsingin Sanomat on 21/7 dealing with civilian victims among the Lebanese population. The author mentions correctly that “Israel has justified its military action by saying that the operation should not be looked in comparison to the abducted of the three soldiers, but in relation to security threats surrounding Israel”.
The threat on Israel is real and tangible. A ruthless terrorist organization Hizbollah has over 12,000 missiles pointing towards Israeli cities. The threat is not just a potential but one that has materialized. More then eight hundred missiles have been launched by Hizbullah on Israel in the past few days. Fifteen Israeli civilians – Jews as well as Arabs – have been killed, including three young children.
Attacks have been carried out against large cities such as Haifa, small farms such as Meron, Arab villages such as Majdal Krum and religious sites such as Safed and Nazareth. As for the point concerning civilian victims I would like to emphasize first of all that Israel deeply regrets the loss of innocent lives. By contrast to Hizbullah action, Israel only targets facilities which directly serve the terrorist organizations in their attacks against Israel.
For example, Israel targeted the Beirut International Airport and the Beirut-Damascus Highway because they serve Hizbullah to resupply itself with weapons and ammunition. Israel has also targeted buildings, such as the Hizbullah Television studios, which act as a vital means of communication for terrorist operatives. Unfortunately, the terrorists have purposely hidden themselves and stockpiled their missiles in residential areas, thus endangering the surrounding populations. Indeed, many of the missiles recently fired at Israel were stored at and launched from private homes, commandeered by Hizbullah terrorists wishing to shield their actions behind civilians in order to thwart Israel’s response. Despite this cruel exploitation of civilians, Israel is taking extreme care to reduce to aminimum the risk to which the population is exposed – often at the cost of operational advantages. For example, leaflets are dropped urging residents to avoid certain Hizbullah installations, even though such prior warning reduces Israel’s element of surprise.
I would like also to add that Israel is doing everything it can to coordinate, through discreet channels with Finland as an active part, the evacuation of all foreign nationals who wish to leave Lebanon. Had Hizbullah not established such a missile force, Israel would have had noneed to take action, and had Hizbullah chosen to set up its arsenal away from populated areas, no civilians would have been hurt when Israel does what it obviously must do. The responsibility for the tragic situation lies solely with the Hizbullah.