Mumbai attack: No difference between Lashkar and Hamas: Israel envoy

January 6th, 2009 - 8:07 pm ICT by ANI  

New Delhi, Jan.6 (ANI): Israels envoy to India, Mark Sofer, on Tuesday said he saw no difference between the Pakistan-based militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Hamas in the Gaza Strip in so far as carrying out willful acts of violence against unsuspecting and innocent civilians.
Speaking in an exclusive interview to ANI, Ambassador Sofer admitted that in some ways there was a similarity between what had happened in Mumbai in November last year, and what is happening in the conflict between the Israelis and the Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
There is absolutely no difference between the Laskar-e-Taiba and Hamas. Both of these are extremist organizations, which use fear and instilling fear and murder, slaughter of innocent civilians to achieve some sort of nefarious fanatical aims which they hold, he said.
In that case, there is a great deal of similarity between the situation here and the situation there. But, I do believe that from there, the similarity ends. Each country, each Government, really must try every option possible as it seems fit. The military option, wherever it is must be the final option. There must be everything tried before hand, as we did in Gaza viz-a-viz Gaza. Diplomatic option, economic option, international pressure everything that is possible in order to try and avoid the military option because that is the worst and the last option that must be used, he added.
He also said that his country has no doubt on the statements issued and the evidences submitted by the Indian authorities with regard to the November 2008 terror attack on Mumbai that claimed over 170 lives and maimed over 300.
The Indian authorities, the Indian Government has been clear from the outset, and I see no reason at all, and from Israeli point of view, no reason at all to place any doubt on those statements whatsoever, Ambassador Sofer said.
We stand strongly and unambiguously behind India in its fight against terror, in its struggle to eliminate the horrors that it has faced, both obviously culminating in Mumbai, which is the most serious in recent times. But the bombs, which are being thrown in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Mumbai, and the other terrorist atrocities, which you have faced, it is a serious scourge, and the fight, the struggle to overcome the infrastructure of terrorist organizations must remain paramount on all of our minds, he added.
When he was asked whether the terror strike on Mumbai in which several Israeli citizens were killed would affect bilateral relations between Israel and India, Ambassador Sofer replied in the negative.
He said: India Israel relations are growing strongly. Since we established diplomatic ties in 1992, our relationship encompasses all aspects of ties, be it political, diplomatic, economic, trade, military, security. We (Israel and India) have progressed from a zero relationship to a relationship that is dynamic. The Mumbai atrocity has not altered the relationship. It is a strong and vibrant relationship.
Referring specifically to reports that Israeli terrorism and intelligence experts had criticized the way India security agencies had tackled the terrorists in Mumbai, Ambassador Sofer said Israel had nothing but praise for the way the Indians had handled the crisis, adding that what these so-called experts said was completely irrelevant.
As to whether Israel has offered security-related cooperation to India during the Mumbai terror attack and in its aftermath, Ambassador Sofer said discussions have taken place, but were not meant for disclosure in the public domain.
Commenting on the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and to the world communitys criticism of Tel Aviv for not stopping the operation, Ambassador Sofer emphatically said: Every effort was made to minimize civilian casualties. We did not want a military conflict. We came forward with humanitarian assistance, economic inducements, but we are determined that there will be no return to the status quo ante.
He reiterated that as far as Israel was concerned, its first priority was to safeguard the security and well being of Israeli citizens that were being tormented by the Hamas. To emphasize his point, he said that the Hamas has so far fired 3400 rockets and missiles at various locations in Israel.
We have tried everything, enough is enough, Sofer said.
On whether Israel would use its friendly ties with US to exert pressure on Pakistan to deliver those responsible for the terror attack on Mumbai to India, Ambassador Sofer said: India does not need a third party to get its aims achieved on the issue of terrorism. India has a close and dynamic relationship with the U.S.
He also said that he did not know how Pakistan would react to the evidence provided to it by India, as I am too preoccupied with the Israel-Hamas conflict.
He said he believed sincerely in the dictum that there was light at the end of the dark tunnel.
As for Indias criticism of the Israeli operations and its demand that Tel Aviv exercise restraint, Ambassador Sofer said Israels first priority was to secure its citizens from mass bombardment.
We hear the Indian point of view, explained to them. We have tried everything before taking the ultimate measure. Hamas has broken the truce, says the Arab world, he concluded. (ANI)

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