Israel’s Lapid rejects pressure to change army open fire rules
Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday said he would not punish Israeli soldiers who defend themselves “just so that we will receive applause abroad,” in an apparent response to international pressure to change his military’s rules of engagement.
The day prior, the US State Department said Washington would press the Jewish state to reconsider its military rules of engagement following Israel’s probe into the May killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, which said she was likely mistakenly shot by an Israeli soldier.
“I hear the demands to prosecute [Israeli] soldiers following the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. I hear the claims to change the opening instructions in our fire,” Lapid said in a speech at a graduation ceremony for naval officers at the naval base in Haifa, northern Israel.
“I will not let them prosecute an [Israeli soldier] who defended his life from the shooting of terrorists just so that we will receive applause abroad,” he continued.
“No one will give us instructions to open fire when we are fighting for our lives. Our fighters have the full backing of the Israeli government and the people of Israel.”
Israel released its report on Abu Akleh’s killing on Monday, saying the Al Jazeera journalist was not deliberately targeted while covering an Israeli raid into the West Bank city of Jenin conducted as part of Operation “Break the Wave.”
“Starting today, it’s your job to protect us, but it’s also the state’s job to protect you,” Lapid told Israeli soldiers and officers present at the ceremony.
“Israel expressed sorrow over the death of the journalist. This is a tragedy that happened in the middle of an incident in which heavy fire was fired by terrorists. The [Israeli army] never deliberately shoots at innocent people,” the Israeli premier urged.
“We are committed to the freedom of the press and to the strictest opening fire rules in the world.”