Netanyahu: Orlando casualties were victims of homophobia
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Netanyahu: Orlando casualties were victims of homophobia

‘Terror knows no bounds,’ prime minister tells NATO ambassadors; urges ‘people of the civilized world’ to defeat it

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a joint press statement together with Jesper Vahr, Denmark's ambassador to Israel, during a meeting with ambassadors from NATO member states, in Jerusalem on June 14, 2016 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a joint press statement together with Jesper Vahr, Denmark's ambassador to Israel, during a meeting with ambassadors from NATO member states, in Jerusalem on June 14, 2016 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The casualties of Sunday’s deadly nightclub shooting in Orlando were victims of homophobia and intolerance, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.

“These people were doing nothing wrong,” he said. “They were dancing with friends and enjoying music with loved ones. The terrorist murdered them because he was driven by intolerance to the LGBT community and driven by hatred for freedom and diversity.”

Addressing foreign diplomats in Jerusalem, the prime minister drew a direct parallel between terror attacks in Israel and elsewhere in the world.

“Paris, London, Brussels, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bali, Mumbai, New York, San Bernardino, now Orlando — so many cities have been struck by the same evil,” he said. “Terror knows no bounds and that’s why our cooperation — the battle against terrorism — must know no bounds as well. One day [the Islamic State] kills gays, the next day Yazidis, then Jews and Muslims and Christians. They have no bounds.”

This undated image shows Omar Mateen, who authorities say killed dozens of people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday, June 12, 2016. The gunman opened fire inside the crowded gay nightclub before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said. (MySpace via AP)
Omar Mateen, who authorities say killed dozens of people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday, June 12, 2016. (MySpace via AP)

Terror, which he defined as the “indiscriminate systematic attack on innocent people,” must always be fought, Netanyahu said. “It doesn’t depend on the identity of the victims, it depends on the nature of the act. The act is evil. It is perpetrated by people with evil designs. And we, the people of the civilized world, have to stand together to defeat it.”

An injured man is escorted out of the Pulse nightclub after a shooting rampage, Sunday morning June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP/Steven Fernandez)
An injured man is escorted out of the Pulse nightclub after a shooting rampage, Sunday morning June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP/Steven Fernandez)

The attack, at the Pulse gay club in Orlando, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. It was perpetrated by Omar Mateen, 29, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Netanyahu was addressing a gathering of about a dozen ambassadors from North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states. Last month, NATO invited Israel to open an official mission at its Brussels headquarters.

“I want to inform you that we’re in the process of opening the office as soon as possible. We attach great importance to that,” the prime minister said, pledging to help NATO defeat the Islamic State by sharing intelligence and counter-terrorism know-how.

“Israel has much to contribute to NATO; and I believe that NATO has much to contribute to Israel,” he said.

Danish ambassador to Israel Jesper Vahr, who acts as a local liaison with NATO, said the Western defense alliance and the Jewish state confront the same challenges. “There are so many threats that are facing NATO that are similar to the ones facing Israel.”

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg. (Screen capture: YouTube)
NATO head Jens Stoltenberg. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Vahr then read a message from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who called Israel a “very important partner” for the organization. “Like the nations of the alliance, Israel is an open, democratic society,” he said, adding that today both Israel and NATO face “greater, more complex threats” than in the past.

Israel has for many years been an active partner in NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, which Stoltenberg said is “the only security forum that brings together NATO allies with Israel and Arab countries.”

The new Israeli mission at NATO headquarters will help further expand bilateral cooperation, he said. “Israel and NATO are natural partners, and I very much look forward to an even closer relationship.”

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