Swedish PM Says Knife Attacks Do Not Constitute 'Terror'

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Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven gives a news conference at the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, October 3, 2014. Credit: Reuters

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven made waves Sunday by telling local media that knife attacks in Israel fail to meet the internationally accepted definition of a terror attack. He later backtracked from the comment, saying knife attacks are in fact a form of terror, though they were not orchestrated by groups designated as terrorist organizations.

Local news outlet TT spoke with Löfven during his visit to the Swedish town of Luleå and asked him if the recent spate of knife attacks by Palestinians against Israelis were terror attacks. "No, it is not classified as such. There is an international classification regarding what constitutes or does not constitute [terror]. As far as I know, the [knife attacks in Israel] are not defined as terror."

A few hours after making the comment, Löfven called TT to clarify his intentions and prevent a "misunderstanding," saying: "I meant that it was unclear if the knife attacks are organized by a group classified as a terrorist organizations. Nonetheless, the attacks themselves do constitute terror."

The incident is the latest in a long line of international spats between Israel and Sweden, the most recent following comments made by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, who accused Israel of executing Palestinian assailants without trial.

Israel's responded harshly to the allegations, calling the statement "scandalous, surreal, impudent, and detached from reality."

The foreign ministry stressed that Israeli citizens and security personnel have the right to defend themselves. "In Israel, any person who commits a crime is taken to court, including terrorists," the foreign ministry said. "Israeli citizens are dealing with terrorism, which is inflamed by irresponsible and false statements like these."

The Swedish Foreign Minister released a clarification, claiming that Wallstrom's statements were misconstrued. "The Foreign Minister did not say that Israel conducts 'extrajudicial executions.' The Foreign Minister made a general statement about international law and the right to self-defense and the importance of proportionality and distinction. What she stated applies to all parties."

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