Israel′s Netanyahu marks independence day with a warning | News | DW | 19.04.2018
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Israel's Netanyahu marks independence day with a warning

Netanyahu used Israel's 70-year anniversary celebrations to warn the Jewish state's enemies. At the same time he hinted at better relations with some Arab countries.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicked off Independence Day celebrations at sundown on Wednesday at a torch-lighting ceremony, issuing veiled threats to Iran and offering an outstretched hand to those who want peace.

Netanyahu said Israel faced "continued incitement by our neighbors, a great many of whom refuse to come to terms with our existence" and warned that "anyone who raises a hand against us won't be spared."

At the same time, the Israeli premier said: "our hand is outstretched in peace to all of our neighbors who want peace."

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Netanyahu's comment come amid rising tensions with Iran over its presence in Syria and signals that decades-old enmities between Israel and the Gulf Arab states are retreating over shared concerns about Tehran.

"Admiration toward Israel is finally trickling to Arab countries. Here, I believe, lie real seeds for peace," he said.

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Netanyahu repeated threats against Iran entrenching itself in war-torn Syria, warning that Israel would not hesitate to defend itself. Concern is mounting over a possible regional war between Israel and Iran.

Earlier during a somber Memorial Day ceremony remembering fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, Netanyahu spoke of the "barbaric zealotry of radical Islam." The torch-lighting ceremony begins Independence Day celebrations, which include parties, concerts and fireworks.

US President Donald Trump on Twitter wished Netanyahu and Israel a great 70th Independence Day anniversary, and said he was looking forward to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem next month.

The planned embassy move has enraged Palestinians and the Muslim world, undermining the relaunch of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians towards a two-state solution.

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The 70th anniversary of the founding of a Jewish state comes as Israel faces rolling weekly Friday protests by Palestinians in Gaza.

Israeli forces have killed 34 Palestinians and wounded hundreds more since the protests began on March 30. Israel has accused Hamas of organizing the protests. There have been no Israeli casualties.

Palestinian organizers have called the series of protests the "Great March of Return" beginning on Land Day, March 30, and continuing until May 15, the 70th anniversary of the "Nakba" - or the "catastrophe" - when 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes and off their land by Israeli forces in 1948.

In his Independence Day remarks, Netanyahu said that no one would "extinguish" the light of Israel.

"All the ancient peoples who were exiled from their lands vanished and scattered all over the place. Only we, the Jewish people, who were like a leaf blown away in the storm of exile, refused to disappear and remained faithful to Zion," he said.

cw/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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