Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the phone on Friday, and asked him to publicly state that the US is aware that Israel does not carry out extrajudicial killings.
Netanyahu had already responded harshly to a letter to Kerry from a US senator asking President Barack Obama to investigate claims that the Jewish state has carried out such killings.
In the February letter by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, co-signed by 10 House members, Leahy asked that the president look into claims of “gross violations of human rights” by Israel and Egypt.
On Wednesday the prime minister responded to the letter, saying: “The IDF and security forces are not murderers. IDF soldiers and Israel Police officers protect with their bodies, in a moral manner, themselves and innocent civilians from bloodthirsty terrorists set on killing them.”
Netanyahu slammed the criticism, suggesting a double standard that ignored terror attacks against Israelis.
“Where is the concern for the infringement of the human rights of so many Israelis who were murdered and wounded by criminal murderers?” he asked.
Netanyahu concluded that the letter “should have been directed at those who incite children to cruel acts of terrorism.”
Leahy, a Democratic Senate veteran, is the architect of 1997 legislation that prohibits the State and Defense departments from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.
The letter asks Kerry to investigate “what may be extrajudicial killings,” citing claims by Amnesty International and other human rights groups relating to the deaths of Fadi Aloun, Sa’ad al-Atrash, Hadeel Hashlamoun and Mutaw Awisat.
According to Israel, all four were killed while attempting to attack Israelis in Jerusalem and Hebron, although those claims are disputed by the Palestinians.
Jerusalem has chafed at accusations that its security forces are carrying out extrajudicial killings during a six-month round of violence and Palestinian terrorism that has seen 29 Israelis and four foreign nationals killed by Palestinians and some 200 Palestinians killed.
Israel says some two-thirds of the Palestinians killed were in the midst of attacks, and the rest died during clashes with troops.
However, videos and testimonies claiming excessive use of force have raised troubling questions, including a video which emerged last week of a soldier killing a disarmed Palestinian assailant in Hebron.
The soldier is being investigated and is set to face manslaughter charges, but has been vociferously defended by some sectors of Israeli society.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.