Daily Israel Report

Italian Foreign Minister Visits Rocket-Stricken Southern City

Israeli FM Avigdor Liberman takes Italian counterpart on a tour of Ashdod, says Israel must respond to rockets 'like any normal country'.
By Yoni Kempinski and Ari Soffer
First Publish: 7/15/2014, 4:27 PM

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman escorted his Italian counterpart Federica Mogherini on a visit to the southern port city of Ashdod, which has been battered repeatedly by rockets from the Gaza Strip.

The two visited a spot where, just one hour before, a rocket had struck in a residential area. Liberman pointed out that rocket fire against Ashdod was clearly targeting Israeli civilians, in violation of international law.

"We understand that we are still in the midst of the battle," he told journalists, noting how Hamas and other terrorist groups continued launching rockets despite a ceasefire proposal.

"Hamas is aiming only (at the) civilian population... can you imagine rockets on Rome or Naples?" he asked, when questioned as to how Israel would respond to the ongoing bombardment. "Can somebody imagine rockets on Washington or New York...? I think we must retaliate as all normal countries (would)."

The visit came at roughly the same time as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave the military the green light to resume airstrikes on Gaza, after nearly 50 rockets were fired by terrorist groups including Hamas since the proposed 9 a.m. ceasefire brokered by Egypt.

From Ashdod, Mogherini will moving on to visit senior Palestinian Authority diplomats in Ramallah, including PA head Mahmoud Abbas and foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki.

She is also expected to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres on Wednesday, as well as visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

A 41-year-old who has only been in government since February, Mogherini is seen as a possible pick for a European Commission post or to be the EU's next foreign policy chief.