Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry reportedly told an audience at the Foreign Ministry in Cairo on Sunday that the killing of Palestinian children by Israel cannot be deemed terrorism. Such an act cannot be defined as terrorism, he said, without international agreement on exactly what terrorism is.
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There are international concepts such as state terrorism that countries may commit against people beyond their own borders or the repression of opponents within individual countries, Shoukry said, in an apparent effort to distinguish those cases and the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Arabic-language newspaper Al-Arabi al-Jadid, which is published in London and is identified with the Persian Gulf state of Qatar reported that Shoukry made the remarks Sunday in response to a question posed to him directly as to whether killing of Palestinian children by Israel constituted terrorism.
Shoukry told his audience, a group of outstanding high school students: "Palestine is in our hearts and the Egyptian people will always take an interest in this issue and try to help achieve an agreement [with Israel], but the situation is complicated due to the extent of the diplomatic will in Israel, the will of the international community and the resilience of the Palestinians."
In response, Qatar-based Hamas spokesman Husan Badran tweeted: "Anyone who doesn't view the crimes of the occupation as terrorism is physically blind and suffers from moral decline and a lack direction."
In recent years, a large number of Palestinian children were killed by Israeli forces during the 2014 Gaza war. Following the outbreak of a wave of stabbing attacks in the fall of 2015, a number of Palestinian teens were killed in the course of attacking Israelis. Other Palestinian children have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank, as well.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry website reported on the foreign minister's meeting with the students without reporting specifically about the question regarding the killing of Palestinian children, but Shoukry's comments sparked comments on websites that don't toe the line with the Egyptian establishment, saying that the remarks are another sign of closer relations between Israel and Egypt. Shoukry's visit to Jerusalem last month prompted reports criticizing the foreign minister over the visit and over Egypt's strategic cooperation with Israel.
In the course of the visit, Shoukry called for the early resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and said a peace agreement would have dramatic implications for the entire Middle East.
The failure of the pro-establishment Egyptian media to cover Shoukry's comments on Sunday is not happenstance. Nor is the fact that it has been reported only by opposition websites and by a newspaper identified with Qatar, whose relations with Cairo are rocky.
Shoukry is a career diplomat in the Egyptian foreign service. Between 2008 and 2012, he was Egypt's ambassador in Washington. He has been foreign minister since 2014.