Israel Seeking to Help Aleppo Victims

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israel is seeking ways to step up its humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday at an annual meeting with the foreign press in Yerushalayim.

“We see the tragedy of the terrible suffering of the civilians. We are prepared to take in wounded women and children, and also men, if they are not combatants. Bring them to Israel, take care of them in our hospitals as we have done with thousands of Syrian civilians. We are looking into ways of doing this. It is being explored as we speak,” Netanyahu said.

Although Israel has long provided medical treatment for Syrians wounded in the fighting, they have come across the border from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. As one government official told The Jerusalem Post, transporting wounded people from Aleppo, hundreds of miles away in northern Syria, poses much more difficult logistical problems.

Regarding the Syrian situation overall, Netanyahu was pessimistic. “Will it come together and be a unified Syria? I doubt it,” he said. “I think you have enclaves there and they are not about to disappear, but the suffering is great, and the one initiative we took is to help — as I said — thousands of Syrians who are sometimes mutilated beyond belief. We help them. I offered to do more today. I don’t know if we can resolve Syria, but we can help mitigate some of the suffering. That is the best that Israel can do.”

At the same time, he said, Israel will not let the Syrian war or aggression from Syria “spill over into our territory.”

On the Palestinian issue, Netanyahu said that, with the election of Donald Trump in the U.S., “everybody is saying, ‘How is Netanyahu going to deal with this if he does not have massive pressure on him?’

“Just fine. This is a great opportunity to actually pursue some new ideas I intend to raise with Donald Trump when he is in the White House to see how we can solve this conflict,” he said.

A question from a Chinese journalist elicited an announcement from Netanyahu that he is planning a trip to China in 2017 to mark 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties. He was last in China in 2013. In the coming year, the peripatetic prime minister also plans to travel to West Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Australia, Singapore and Fiji.

Asked by a Spanish journalist why he has lately taken to sharply criticizing some journalists on his blog page, Netanyahu replied, “It’s entertaining, it’s fun, I enjoy it.”

Netanyahu said that just as journalists should have the freedom to criticize as much as they want, “Guess what, we should have the freedom to criticize them, and that is what I do on occasion, and it’s a lot of fun.”