Israel slams Spain for ‘pro-Palestine bias’

Israel has accused Spain, Britain, France and Italy of being pro-Palestinian after they summoned their Israeli ambassadors in a row over plans to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israel slams Spain for 'pro-Palestine bias'
Palestinian children look a bungalows built by Israeli settlers at an outpost constructed on seized land, near the West Bank city of Birzeit in December. File photo: Abbas Momani/AFP

Israel's Foreign Ministry reacted to the news by also summoning the ambassadors of all four EU countries on Friday, labelling their governments' "perpetual one-sided stance" unacceptable.

"The EU calls our ambassadors in because of the construction of a few houses?" said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a press conference on Thursday.

"When did the EU call in the Palestinian ambassadors about incitement that calls for Israel's destruction?"

EU representatives, including Foreign Affairs Representative Catherine Ashton, have objected to Israel's recent plans to build 1,400 homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"(It's) an obstacle to peace and threatens to make the two-state solution impossible," the BBC reported Ashton as saying.

But President Netanyahu said it was "time to stop this hypocrisy" and "inject some balance and fairness to this discussion".

"This imbalance and this bias against Israel doesn't advance peace," he argued.

"It pushes peace further away because it tells the Palestinians: 'Basically you can do anything you want, say anything you want and you won't be held accountable.'"

Around half a million Jewish citizens of Israel live in more than 100 settlements built after Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

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Peacekeepers ‘targeted’ by Israel in Lebanon

A confidential Spanish military report on the death of a Spanish UN peacekeeper in Israeli shelling in Lebanon said he was manning a post that appeared to have been targeted, a newspaper reported Sunday

Peacekeepers 'targeted' by Israel in Lebanon
Spanish UN peacekeepers on patrol in Lebanon, July 2013. Photo: Mahmoud Zayyat / AFP

El Pais cited extracts from the report which drew on testimony from soldiers following the January 28 incident when the Israeli military shelled border areas following a Hezbollah attack that left two Israeli soldiers dead.

Corporal Ivan Lopez Sanchez, who was stationed nearby, told investigators that the UN position was clearly targeted.

"Every time, they corrected the trajectory from Majidiye to the 4-28" post, where the UNIFIL peacekeepers were stationed, he said.

Spain and Israel have agreed to carry out a joint probe into the death of 36-year-old corporal Javier Soria Toledo.

Another Spanish soldier, Sergeant Julio Xavier Garcia, echoed Sanchez, saying the shells initially fell about 500 metres (yards) north of the UN post and then they "corrected the trajectory towards the position."

A third soldier said fragmentation bombs were used in the attack and that the shelling finally appeared to target the main watch tower.

El Pais quoted a UN report which said that Israel had warned the UN peacekeepers at 11:40 am not to venture out, without giving any explanation.

Between 11:48 am and 1:43 pm, nearly 120 artillery shells, 90 mortar grenades and five projectiles were fired in the area, El Pais quoted the report as saying.

The 10,000-strong United Nations Interim Force Lebanon (UNIFIL) includes
some 600 Spanish soldiers and troops from 35 other nations.