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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs > Near Eastern Affairs: Regional Topics > Middle East Peace > Remarks, Briefings, Fact Sheets > Press Releases and Reports > 2003 > January - March

Excerpt: March 3, 2003 Press Briefing

Read the entire briefing.

Question: Richard, do you have any comment on the Israeli incursion into Gaza in which quite a large number of civilians seem to have been killed?

Mr. Boucher: Let me make clear once again that we do understand the need for Israel to defend itself against ongoing violence and terror. We continue to press the Palestinians to do all they can to end immediately all such targeting of Israelis.

As the President said in his speech last week at the American Enterprise Institute, terror and violence have gravely undermined the hopes of the Palestinian people for a better future.

We've seen reports of Palestinian civilian deaths from Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza this week, including the death of a 14-year-old boy and of a pregnant woman.

We continue to be seriously concerned about civilian casualties and we have urged the Israeli Government to take all appropriate precautions to prevent the death or injury of innocent civilians and damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure. We remain in close communication with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to calm the situation and to prevent further bloodshed.

We are also deeply concerned about the increasing Israeli use over the past few months of demolitions and the civilian deaths that have resulted from this practice, including the pregnant woman that I referred to earlier. We have been very clear about our policy regarding the practice of demolitions. Demolition of civilian structures deprives Palestinians of shelter and the ability to peacefully earn a livelihood. It exacerbates the humanitarian situation inside the Palestinian areas and makes more difficult the critical challenge of bringing about an end to violence and the restoration of calm.

Question: Can I just follow up? But, okay, apart from the question of civilian casualties and the demolitions, do you think that this incursion -- do you accept that this incursion was necessary for self-defense, as you put it?

Mr. Boucher: We do believe that Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorism, that the Palestinians have a responsibility to end the violence. We do not try to comment on each particular operation the Israelis have carried out, except for the particulars of those operations that might result in civilian casualties.

There is a better solution for all this than the military one, and that is for the Palestinians to be able to end the violence and for all of the parties to be able to cooperate in establishing security for the people of the area. And that is something we continue to work towards.

Question: A policy to stop the -- are you asking the Israelis to stop demolition of houses?

Mr. Boucher: We're against demolition of houses. We think it's a wrong thing to do.

Question: But did you put a motion to the Israelis to stop doing that?

Mr. Boucher: We've talked to the Israelis about this. They're quite clear on our views.

Question: What's their reaction? Apparently, they didn't care about --

Mr. Boucher: I'll let them speak for themselves.

Question: Richard, returning to the earlier question, Israeli troops evidently going into Gaza, nabbed the co-founder of Hamas, obviously blowing up buildings and such, and nabbed all the leaders that were working with that co-founder. Do you think, under the circumstances, it's warranted, seeing that Hamas is now on an FTO?

Mr. Boucher: We consider Hamas to be a terrorist group and they, like all others, should stop the violence.

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