The Israeli ambassador to Kenya Tuesday defended his country’s military offensive in Gaza, blaming Hamas fighters for its return to the Palestinian territory and for the growing number of civilian casualties.
At the same time, the envoy praised Kenyan journalists for their fair coverage of the recent developments, remarking that “it’s rather balanced in the local media.”
Speaking to the Daily Nation, Mr Jacob Keidar justified the ongoing Israeli assault, which seeks to limit the ability of Hamas to acquire smuggled weapons and fire rockets into nearby Israeli towns.
Air strikes began on December 27, just after a six-month truce expired, and a ground operation is now under way.
“We said enough is enough...every country with this kind of threat would have the same response,” Mr Keidar said before visiting Mbagathi District Hospital in Nairobi, where he donated medical equipment worth just over Sh2.5 million.
“We didn’t start this fight,” the envoy continued, reiterating that “Israel is committed to peace and we would like to see a two-state solution.”
Israel’s military campaign has been criticised around the world for the large death toll among Palestinian civilians.
According to figures reported on Tuesday by international agencies, about 588 Palestinians have been killed, and the United Nations estimates that 25 per cent were civilians.
Last week in Nairobi, Muslims from Jamia Mosque rallied on Banda Street and burned an Israeli flag, shouting words like “genocide” and “massacre.”
In Mombasa, hundreds of protesters marched from the Kwa Shibu Mosque and burned the flag of the United States, which firmly supports the Israeli assault.
Mr Keidar said he regrets each civilian death. “I hold Hamas 100 per cent responsible for each casualty on their side,” he said.
“When they launch a rocket from a private house where a Palestinian family lives, what can we do?”
News reports meanwhile indicate that at least eight Israelis have died so far, including five soldiers and three civilians. Hamas, the militant political group that controls Gaza, has continued to fire dozens of rockets each day.
The deaths from both sides have led to calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is in the Middle East lobbying for a truce, and so are representatives of the European Union.
The Kenyan Government has largely remained silent on the issue, although Prime Minister Raila Odinga has reportedly called for a ceasefire, according to Mr Keidar.
There are still no official statements regarding the conflict posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.