‘We can help mitigate some of the suffering, that’s the best that Israel can do,’ PM tells foreign press

December 20, 2016, 10:16 pm

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he instructed his government to find ways to extend medical assistance to Syrians injured in the latest round of fighting, especially those from the embattled city of Aleppo.

“We see the tragedy of terrible suffering of civilians and I’ve asked the Foreign Ministry to seek ways to expand our medical assistance to the civilian casualities of the Syrian tragedy, specifically in Aleppo where we’re prepared to take in wounded women and children, and also men if they’re not combatants,” Netanyahu told foreign journalists during a meeting in Jerusalem.

“We’d like to do that: Bring them to Israel, take care of them in our hospitals as we’ve done with thousands of Syrian civilians. We’re looking into ways of doing this; it’s being explored as we speak.”

Addressing foreign reporters and diplomats at the Government Press Office’s annual New Year’s reception, Netanyahu said he sees no end of the fighting and that he could not imagine a peaceful resolution to the civil war that would restore the pre-war status quo.

Syrian pro-government forces sit in the government-held old city of Aleppo on December 17, 2016. AFP PHOTO/STRINGER)

Syrian pro-government forces sit in the government-held old city of Aleppo on December 17, 2016. AFP PHOTO/STRINGER)

“Do I see a resolution of the Syrian situation? No,” he said emphatically. “It’s certainly not going to be one happy Syria, that’s for sure. Will it be a united Syria? I doubt it. You have enclaves there and I don’t think they’re about to disappear.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during his annual end-of-year address to foreign journalists in Jerusalem on December 20, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / GIL COHEN-MAGEN)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during his annual end-of-year address to foreign journalists in Jerusalem on December 20, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / GIL COHEN-MAGEN)

There is great suffering among the country’s civilian population, but there is very little Israel could do to help them, the prime minister added. “I don’t know if we can resolve [the Syrian civil war]. But we can help mitigate some of the suffering, that’s the best that Israel can do.”

Israel and its northern neighbour have formally been at war for decades but following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war it has been treating casualties, including wounded fighters. More than 2,000 Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals since 2013, according to the Israeli army.

A Syrian boy sits with belongings he collected from the rubble of his house in Aleppo's Al-Arkoub neighborhood on December 17, 2016, after pro-government forces retook the area from rebel fighters. (AFP/Youssef Karwashan)

A Syrian boy sits with belongings he collected from the rubble of his house in Aleppo’s Al-Arkoub neighborhood on December 17, 2016, after pro-government forces retook the area from rebel fighters. (AFP/Youssef Karwashan)

The host of the event, GPO director Nitzan Chen, also addressed “untold suffering” in Syria, saying that “our hearts go out” to the country’s civilians and expressing the wish that “the new year will bring speedy end of their suffering.”

In his remarks, Netanyahu also announced more travel plans. In 2017, he would like to visit China to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations. His last visit to the country was in 2013. He also said he received an invitation to go to attend a conference of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), where he plans to meet with 15 leaders from the continent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Prime Minister of Swaziland, Sibusiso Dlamini, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on December 20, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Prime Minister of Swaziland, Sibusiso Dlamini, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on December 20, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Additionally, he said he plans on accepting an invitation to Eastern Europe to meet with four heads of state and to travel to the “big three” countries of Latin America, though it was not clear which states he was referring to.

In February, Netanyahu is set to embark on a 10-day trip to Singapore, Australia and Fiji.

Asked by a reporter whether his personal attacks on certain Israeli journalists who have criticized him was the best strategy to engage them, the prime minister replied jokingly: “I don’t know, it’s the most entertaining. It’s fun. I enjoy it.”

More seriously, he said that he believes in a free press and that it is every journalist’s right to criticize the government. But Netanyahu added that he in turn has the right to lambast the press when he believes he’s subjected to unfair scrutiny and to break up “monopolies” in the Israeli media market.

AFP contributed to this report

Times Of Israel