Middle East

Israeli press mulls response to killings

A mourner lights candles for the murdered teenagers in Tel Aviv Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mourners in Tel Aviv lit candles for the murdered teenagers

The press in Israel is locked in a debate over how the country should respond to the murder of three teenagers who were abducted in the West Bank two weeks ago.

While many commentators support some kind of retribution, there is disagreement over the form it should take.

As Yisrael Hayom, a paper which strongly supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, puts it: "the question facing the ministers is not whether Israel will respond, but in what force".

The front page of Yisrael Hayom carries a biblical quote in Hebrew which translates as "Died Young". Inside, journalist Haim Shain says: "The terrorists who murdered the teenagers are not operating in a vacuum... They constitute the violent arm of their leaders, of the inciters and of the Palestinian Authority".

It continues: "The government of Israel must take brave decisions in order to halt the killing campaign of Israel's haters. We returned to Israel so that Jewish blood may not be forsaken... The message must be clear and convincing. No one will dare lay a hand on a Jew and every hand that is laid will be quickly and determinedly cut off."

The Israeli government has accused Hamas of the kidnap and murder of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, with Mr Netanyahu saying the militant group "will pay" for its actions.

Israel launched air strikes on the Gaza strip overnight, which it said were in response to rocket attacks on southern Israel the previous day.

The main Palestinian dailies reported the story of the teenagers' murders, but as yet only the privately-owned Al-Quds newspaper has offered any comment in calling for diplomatic efforts to avoid a military confrontation.

Writing in the popular Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, Alex Fishman calls the crisis a "leadership test" for Mr Netanyahu, adding that the case for military action was already being made "before the bodies were found".

"The Hamas Grad rocket and the Israeli interceptor are now flying towards each other and there is no-one to push them aside from an almost certain clash. Now there is a need to pray for the wisdom of the leader," Fishman says.

Writing in the same newspaper, Nahum Barnea urges caution in dealing with the "external enemy".

"Israel must continue to hit Hamas; this is important for deterrence, for security and for the future of relations with the Palestinian Authority. But this should be done in a rational way and with surgical means... sweeping measures and collective punishment could push the population in the West Bank into Hamas arms and bring about an increase in terrorism, instead of thwarting it."

Image copyright Yisrael Hayom
Image caption This headline in Yisrael Hayom reads, 'Died Young'

An editorial in Haaretz takes a similar line, saying that recent history had shown that "military operations are effective for only a limited time" and that "restraint can yield results beneficial to civilians on both sides".

The paper also opposes Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's call for a re-occupation of Gaza, saying: "It is a short road to a populist political decision to appease the revenge-seekers and lead Israel into yet another military campaign, one that would paralyze not only life in Gaza but the lives of tens of thousands of Israelis."

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