Israel Ambassador Mark Sofer Defends Israel's Response To Gaza Protests

Israel Ambassador to Australia, Mark Sofer, defends Israel's response to protests along the Gaza border, which saw 58 Palestinians killed and thousands more injured.

What you need to know
  • Sofer defends Israel's response, saying "every single possibility" of stopping the riots had failed
  • Sofer blames Hamas for instigating and facilitating the thousands of Palestinians that attended Monday's protests
  • Further rioting is expected along the border

Israel Ambassador to Australia, Mark Sofer, has defended his country's actions after 58 Palestinians were killed during border riots on Monday.

Speaking to Ten Eyewitness News, Sofer called the response of Israeli forces "proportionate," and said all other avenues of diffusing the situation had failed.

Israeli troops shot dead dozens of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border, when the opening of the U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem raised tension to boiling point after weeks of demonstrations.

"I think when you are stormed by tens of thousands of people, many of them holding weaponry, of the worst order, and when there is no other way, when you have tried every single possibility," he said.

Leaflets pleading with Palestinians to not protest had been dropped into Gaza in the days leading up to Monday's events and tear gas had been used to try and disperse the crowds.

Sofer said he believed every country, including Israel, had the right to stop people from invading their borders.

"Every possible way of stopping a rioting hoard, or rioting group of invaders, there's no other word to use, to come over the border and capture -- by their own words --  as many Israeli citizens as they possibly can and kill them," he said.

Sofer blamed Hamas for inciting the sheer number of people who were at the border on Monday.

"It was the Hamas that brought them there, bused them there, paid them to be there, pushed them in there, and the blame is clearly on the side of the people who rioted, who were instigating the riots, not on the side of the country, the one country, that tries desperately hard," he said.

Senior Hamas leader, Khalil Al-Hayya, told Reuters at a border encampment that Monday’s protest was timed to coincide with the “deplorable crime of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem”.

“Our people went out today to respond to this new Zionist-American aggression, and to draw by their blood the map of their return,” he said.

Further riots are expected along the border in retaliation to Monday's deaths.

International Reaction

In the bloodiest single day for Palestinians since 2014, Palestinian Health Ministry officials said 58 protesters were killed and 2,700 injured by live gunfire, tear gas or other means.

The bloodshed drew calls for restraint from some countries, including France and Britain, and stronger criticism from others, with regional power Turkey calling it “a massacre."

The White House declined to join in urging Israel to exercise caution and pinned the blame squarely on Gaza’s ruling Hamas group, backing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who described the Israeli military’s actions as self-defence of his country’s borders.

In siding squarely with Israel, Washington put distance between itself and its European allies for the second time in a week, after angering France, Germany and others last Tuesday by abandoning an international nuclear deal with Iran.

with Reuters