Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday assailed Senator Patrick Leahy, a senior Democrat, for his letter asking U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to investigate reports that Israeli forces may have committed exjudicial public executions of Palestinians.
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"The IDF and security forces are not murderers," Netanyahu said in a statement.
"IDF soldiers and Israeli police put their lives on the line to defend themselves and innocent civilians from bloodthirsty terrorists who try to kill them.
"Where is the concern for the violations of the human rights of many Israelis who have been murdered or wounded by criminal killers? This letter should have been addressed to those who incite children to engage in acts of cruel terrorism," Netanyahu said.
Earlier on Wednesday the American news site Politico published the contents of the letter sent by Leahy and 10 Democratic Congressmen.
"There have been a disturbing number of reports of possible gross violations of human rights by security forces in Israel and Egypt," the letter said.
"[These] incidents that may have involved recipients, or potential recipients, of U.S. military assistance. We urge you to determine if these reports are credible and to inform us on your findings."
The letter details several incidents reported on by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations in which Israeli army and police units allegedly carried out extrajudicial killings of Palestinians.
The letter mentions several Palestinians involved in stabbing attacks, such as Fadi Alloun, who stabbed a 15-year-old Jewish youth and was shot to death in the ensuing chase; Saad Al-Atrash, who was shot to death as he tried to stab a soldier in Hebron; Hadeel Hashlamoum, who was fatally shot after arriving at a Hebron checkpoint with a knife; and Mutaz Ewisa.
The letter took note of the nature of U.S. military aid to Israel on the tactical level makes it difficult to monitor the use of such assistance.
"In light of these reports we request that you act promptly to determine their credibility and whether they trigger the Leahy Law and, if so, take appropriate action called for under the law," it said.
Leahy, head of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee of Defense, is considered one of the most senior senators in Congress. The Leahy Law, enacted in 1997, prohibits U.S. funding from equipping or training foreign military forces suspected of human rights abuses or war crimes. As a result, the U.S. Department of Defense - among other things - filters foreign officers and soldiers who come to the U.S. for training.
Leahy promoted a bill several years ago aimed at imposing restrictions on U.S. military aid to Israel, in particular the Israel Navy's Shayetet 13, the Israeli Air Force's Shaldag and the undercover Duvdevan units, on the grounds that they harm innocent Palestinians and the lack of mechanims to ensure they do not violate human rights. Leahy proposed the same restrictions on military aid to countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan. However, the move never came to fruition.