OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's comparison of the killing of three Jewish children in a school shooting in France and the death of Palestinian children in Gaza has sparked fury in Israel, The New York Times reported Wednesday, March 21.
The comparison made by Ashton between what is happening in Gaza to what happened in Toulouse, and what is going on in Syria every day, is outrageous and has absolutely no grounding in reality, Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak said.
Speaking at a conference on Palestinian refugees on Monday in Brussels, Ashton cited the tragedy of killing children in a number of parts of the world.
She mentioned the killing of three children in a shooting at a Jewish school in the French city of Toulouse, along with a massacre last year in a Norway summer camp, a bus crash in Switzerland that killed 22 Belgian school children a week ago, the current violence in Syria and "what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world".
The Belgian children having lost their lives in a terrible tragedy, and when we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world we remember young people and children who lose their lives.
Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu said he was infuriated by Ashton's comparison.
"What gets me especially incensed is the comparison between the targeted slaughter of children and the surgical, defensive activities of the (Israel Defense Forces) that are meant to hit terrorists who use children for human shields," he said.
Interior minister Eli Yishai said Ashton's comments hurt the European Union's ability to act as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians, calling on Ashton to step down.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman described Ashton's remarks as unworthy.
He said the children Ms. Ashton should have been thinking about were the children of southern Israel who live in constant fear of rocket attacks launched from Gaza, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
But the EU foreign policy chief was quick to deny she had drawn any parallel.
"In her remarks, the High Representative referred to tragedies taking the lives of children around the world and drew no parallel whatsoever between the circumstances of the Toulouse attack and the situation in Gaza," Ashton's spokesperson said in a statement.
A recording released by Ashton's office showed a slight different working from the original speech at the conference.
The recording included a reference to children in the southern city of Sderot, a target of rockets fired from Gaza.
She finishes by saying, When we see what is happening in Gaza and Sderot, in different parts of the world we remember young people and children who lose their lives.
Palestinian civilians in Gaza have taken the full brunt of Israeli attacks and siege on the Gaza Strip.
In 2009, more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed in a three-week deadly offensive on Gaza.
The onslaught wrecked devastating havoc on the infrastructure of Gaza, home to 1.6 million Palestinians.
Israel has also slapped a tightened siege on Gaza since Hamas came to power in 2006.The blockade was further tightened up against the Islamist movement seized control of the enclave after clashes with rival Fatah.