Czech, Slovak and German foreign ministers land in Israel in show of solidarity

Diplomats visit central Israel home hit by Gaza rocket, reiterate support for Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism; Italian lawmakers hold up Israeli flags in parliament as sign of support
Aryeh Savir/TPS|
Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek, Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass arrived in Israel on Thursday at the invitation of Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and as the IDF was in the midst of a military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
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  • The Czech Republic's Kulhánek said his visit is “first and foremost, a demonstration of the Czech Republic’s unwavering support for Israel in these difficult times. Israel has every right to defend its citizens against indiscriminate terror.”
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    גבי אשכנזי ושרי החוץ של גרמניה, צ'כיה וסלובקיה מבקרים בבניין בו פגעה רקטה
    גבי אשכנזי ושרי החוץ של גרמניה, צ'כיה וסלובקיה מבקרים בבניין בו פגעה רקטה
    Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his German, Czech and Slovak counterparts visit a building in the central city of Petah Tikvah that took a direct hit from a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, May 20, 2021
    (Photo: EPA)
    Slovakia's Korčok stated that “while we recognize Israel’s right to protect its citizens against attacks of Hamas and other militant groups, Slovakia wants to contribute through active diplomacy to de-escalation in order to avoid further innocent victims.”
    Germany's Mass said his visit to Israel was a show of solidarity “with the people on both sides who fear for their lives day and night as Israel must defend itself against Hamas’ rocket terror.”
    “The Middle East is experiencing the worst violence in years these days. That’s why I’m going to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. I will hold talks there about the current escalation and about our international efforts to end the violence,” he stated.
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    גבי אשכנזי ושרי החוץ של גרמניה, צ'כיה וסלובקיה מבקרים בבניין בו פגעה רקטה
    גבי אשכנזי ושרי החוץ של גרמניה, צ'כיה וסלובקיה מבקרים בבניין בו פגעה רקטה
    (Photo: Hadar Yoavian)
    In a meeting with Maas, Ashkenazi thanked Germany for condemning Hamas’ terrorist activities.
    “With every rocket fired, Hamas is committing a double war crime. They fire at Israeli citizens from within population centers in Gaza, using the entire population of Gaza as human shields,” he noted.
    “No country in the world would accept acts of terrorism and aggression towards its citizens. Israel uses proportionate force while doing all it can to avoid harming civilians,” he stated.
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    גבי אשכנזי ושרי החוץ של גרמניה, צ'כיה וסלובקיה מבקרים בבניין בו פגעה רקטה
    גבי אשכנזי ושרי החוץ של גרמניה, צ'כיה וסלובקיה מבקרים בבניין בו פגעה רקטה
    (Photo: AFP)
    Maas stated that “as long as there are states and groups that threaten Israel with annihilation, it must be able to protect its people. Germany will continue to make its contribution to ensuring that it stays that way. Our solidarity is not limited to words.”
    Germany “supports the international efforts to reach a ceasefire and are convinced that the violence must end as soon as possible in the interests of the people,” he said.
    His country also “wants to broaden our view beyond the current situation. We are convinced that a life of security and peace will only be possible in the long term if Israelis and Palestinians can live independently, on both sides.”
    Rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel continued throughout his visit.
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     הייקו מאס וגבי אשכנזי בנתב"ג
     הייקו מאס וגבי אשכנזי בנתב"ג
    Ashkenazi greets German counterpart, Heiko Maas, upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Miri Shimonovitch)
    Ashkenazi hosted a tour for the three top diplomats at a site where rockets fell in Petah Tikva in the center of the country to see “the reality for residents of Israel in the center of the country this last week and for residents of the south for much longer.”
    Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Maas and the two “affirmed the deep ties of friendship between the two countries and underscored the shared goal of weakening extremist elements and strengthening moderate forces in Gaza and in the region at large, to the end of securing long-term peace and stability.”
    On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ashkenazi briefed over 70 foreign ambassadors and diplomatic representatives on the situation in Israel, including EU and U.S. representatives and the ambassadors from Russia, China, India, Germany, Austria, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Canada and Italy.
    During the briefing, Netanyahu presented the ambassadors with documentation of IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip against Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, as well as the location of stockpiles of missiles, rockets, terrorist buildings, command centers and many terrorist infrastructures.
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    בנימין נתניהו בתדרוך בקריה
    בנימין נתניהו בתדרוך בקריה
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefing over 70 foreign ambassadors and diplomatic representatives on the situation in Israel
    (Photo: Hadas Prosh)
    He explained that rather than cowering to terrorism or leveling entire cities, Israel is targeting “those who target us with great precision. That is not a surgical operation as it is. Even in a surgical room in a hospital, you don’t have the ability to prevent collateral damage around an infected tissue. Certainly, in a military operation, you cannot.”
    “There is no army in the world that does more than the Israeli army to prevent collateral damage. To have Israel criticized for that is absurd. Not only is absurd and unjust and untrue, it does enormous damage to democracies that are fighting this kind of evil,” he underscored.
    “Instead of having the perpetrators who commit double war crimes, who are hiding behind civilians and firing on civilians, not having them criticized but having you criticized is the height of hypocrisy and stupidity. What that does is in fact encourage the terrorists,” he charged.
    Also on Wednesday, several members of the Italian parliament held up Israeli flags during a plenum meeting in a show of solidarity with the Jewish state amid the Gaza conflict.
    The gesture was carried out by representatives from the right-wing Lega Nord party, which is projected to make big gains and perhaps even win in the European country's upcoming elections.
    Party leader and premiership hopeful Matteo Slavini shared images of the gesture with his Twitter followers and added a message of support for the Jewish state.
    "'Israel is a cancer that must be eradicated from the world,' some bullies say. NEVER! Long live freedom, democracy, peace," he wrote. "The League today reaffirmed in parliament its solidarity for the right of #Israel to exist.
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