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May 27, 2017

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Following protest in Taipei, Israel envoy defends actions in Gaza

TAIPEI--Israel's top envoy to Taiwan on Wednesday defended her country's air strikes on the Gaza Strip as necessary to protect the people of Israel in response to a protest earlier in the day that criticized the attacks and the resulting civilian casualties.

In a statement, Simona Halperin, head of the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, reiterated the Israeli government's stance that Israel would accept the cease-fire proposed by Egypt on Monday to halt hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

The proposal was given a lukewarm response by Hamas, which felt it was left out of the negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "if Hamas and Islamic Jihad did not accept the Egyptian cease-fire and continued to fire at Israel's cities, the IDF would be ordered to take strong action against them," according to the statement.

Hamas rejected the cease-fire proposal and continued rocket attacks on Israel, so Israeli forces also resumed their strikes on terrorist targets in Gaza, Halperin said in the statement, adding that "these attacks will continue."

"It would have been preferable to resolve this by diplomacy and Israel tried to do so when we acceded to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal," she said.

Noting that Hamas had fired more than 140 rockets on Israel since Tuesday morning, she said Hamas left Israel with no choice "but to broaden and intensify the campaign against it."

Israel will continue its action until it achieves the goal to restore quiet for Israeli citizens by "inflicting a significant blow on the terrorist organizations, while taking all measures possible to protect uninvolved civilians," she said.

Before Israeli forces conduct airstrikes on Gaza, they inform civilians there of the actions to come and give them five minutes to take shelter in safer areas to avoid being hurt and killed, Halperin told the Taiwanese media in an interview earlier this week.

Foreign media reports indicate, however, that close to 200 people in Gaza have been killed in the Israeli attacks and over 1,200 have been injured. One Israeli was also reported to have been killed in a Hamas rocket attack on Tuesday.

The United Nations previously estimated that around 70 percent of the casualties in Gaza have been civilians and more than 30 percent are children.

Earlier Wednesday, the protesters urged "Israel to immediately end strikes on Gaza" and "the United States to stop military assistance to Israel" while calling on "all peace-loving people to take actions to boycott Israel over its long-term crackdown on the people in Gaza."

The group also delivered a letter of protest to a representative from the management team of the building where the Israeli office in Taiwan is located. The letter was later given to Halperin, the office said.

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