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ISRAEL

MPs call on Spain to recognize Palestine

The Spanish parliament on Tuesday passed a non-binding motion calling on the government to recognize the state of Palestine.

MPs call on Spain to recognize Palestine
Spain's foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo stressed the motion did not set a timeline for the recognition. Photo: AFP

The unanimous vote came on the same day that two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed five Israelis in the bloodiest attack in the city in years.

The motion, proposed by the Socialists, calls on the Spanish government to "recognize Palestine as a state", according to the text presented by the Socialists.

It also urges Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy "to promote in coordination with the European Union the recognition of the Palestinian state as sovereign, contiguous, democratic and independent which lives in peace and security with the state of Israel."

"It is not binding, it does not set a timeline for the recognition, it gives the government the margin to proceed with the recognition when it feels it will be opportune," Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo told reporters of the motion in Brussels on Monday.

"If we want to be effective this recognition must be done in coordination with the European Union," he added.

Israel's ambassador to Spain Alon Bar said on Monday he was satisfied "in principle" with the Spanish foreign minister's announcement that any recognition of Palestine would always dependent on peace talks with Israel.

The Spanish parliament's motion follows moves in other European countries intended to increase pressure for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Britain and Ireland approved similar motions last month. Sweden's new left-leaning government went a step further and officially recognized a Palestinian state on October 30th, prompting a strong protest from Israel, which swiftly withdrew its ambassador from Stockholm.

Sweden has since announced it does not plan to open an embassy on Palestinian soil.

The efforts in Europe reflect growing international impatience with Israel's nearly half-century control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

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ISRAEL

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.