Israel hits back at EU after West Bank altercation

Diplomats’ behavior in lead-up to melee with soldiers an ‘unnecessary provocation,’ Foreign Ministry says

French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing pushing an IDF soldier during the September incident. (Screenshot/YouTube)
French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing pushing an IDF soldier during the September incident. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Israel shot back at the EU Sunday for what it called a one-sided condemnation of the IDF following an incident that saw the Israeli military seize a truck being delivered to Palestinians during a scuffle that involved foreign activists and at least one European diplomat.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry released a statement saying a demand from the European Union for answers over the incident a day earlier “ignores the European diplomats’ blunt violation of the law, their disregard of a ruling of the Israeli court and their unnecessary provocation under the alleged pretext of humanitarian aid,” adding that “the European diplomats and their governments owe an explanation to [sic] this blatant violation of diplomatic codes of conduct.”

The communique followed comments by the spokespersons for EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who said “the EU deplores the confiscation of humanitarian assistance carried out by Israeli security forces yesterday in Khirbet al-Makhul. EU representatives have already contacted the Israeli authorities to demand an explanation and expressed their concern at the incident.”

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ilana Stein said Jerusalem rejected the “one-sided announcement.”

According to the IDF, the altercation took place in Khirbet al-Makhul in the West Bank, when Palestinians at the scene began hurling stones and beating the Israeli security forces that arrived in the area. Soldiers used crowd-control measures to break up the melee and three Palestinians were arrested.

Among those at the scene was French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing, who, according to a Reuters report, was pulled out of a truck by soldiers, who then drove away with its contents. A video from the scene showed Fesneau-Castaing lying on the ground, and then pushing an IDF soldier after being helped up.

The EU said the truck was filled with emergency aid for the Palestinians, whose homes had recently been demolished by court order after it was determined they were sitting on an IDF training ground. The Israeli military said the truck was filled with building materials to construct new illegal homes.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson said a formal complaint might be filed with the French over the diplomat’s involvement. “If she did participate, then a formal complaint will be filed — because that is not the way diplomats behave,” he said.

The French Embassy declined to comment to The Associated Press.

Yoel Goldman and Joshua Davidovich contributed to this report.

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