Ashton's remarks evoke Israeli ire


Two Israeli ministers criticised remarks made yesterday by Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, saying she drew unfair comparison between children killed in the shooting in Toulouse, France, and those in the Gaza Strip.

"And the days when we remember young people who have been killed in all sorts of terrible circumstances - 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," Ms Ashton said at a conference in Brussels.

Four people, three of them children, were shot dead yesterday by an unknown assailant outside a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Liberman and defense minister Ehud Barak released statements today criticising Ms Ashton for linking those killed in France and Syria with casualties in Gaza, saying the Israeli military makes an effort to avoid civilian deaths.

"The comparison Ashton made between what happens in Gaza with Syria and Toulouse is far from the truth," Mr Barak said in a statement sent today by the defense ministry.

However, Michael Mann, the EU foreign affairs spokesman, said the reporting of Ms Ashton's remarks was "grossly distorted," asserting that she "strongly condemns" the Toulouse killings.

Ms Ashton "referred to tragedies which take the lives of children around the world," Mr Mann said at a press conference in Brussels.

"She drew no parallel whatsoever between the circumstances of the Toulouse attack and the situation in Gaza."