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Israel refutes Zaka's claims on Israeli deaths

Harinder Mishra in Jerusalem | December 02, 2008 18:39 IST

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The Israel government on Tuesday slammed an Israeli rescue group for alleging that Indian commandos may have inadvertently killed one or more Jewish hostages during the Nariman House operation, saying the "irresponsible"
comments could cause considerable damage to bilateral ties.
    
"They are causing all kinds of problems," a senior Foreign Ministry official said about the six-member team of the Zaka voluntary group that flew on Thursday on its own volition to Mumbai for a rescue operation after the deadly terror strikes.
    
"They are selling all kinds of stories to journalists looking for stories, and taking credit for things they didn't do," the official told The Jerusalem Post.
    
The head of the Zaka team, Haim Weingarten, had in a telephonic interview to the Post alleged yesterday that one or
more hostages at Nariman House may have been killed by the elite National Security Guard commandos.
    

                                Israeli hostages fell to commandos' bullets?



"Based on what I saw, (although) I can't identify the type of bullets in the bodies (of the victims), I don't think the
terrorists killed all the hostages, to put it gently," he had said.
    
An official at the Ministry said these are "irresponsible comments" that can have serious repercussions. He said their
"meddling" can cause considerable damage toIndo-Israel ties.
    
"How can they say such a thing? Did they do an autopsy, do they know what type of bullet caused the wound? Do they have forensic or ballistic expertise? This is not the type of thing you can determine just by looking at a body," he asked.

Asked by the daily if he thought thatIndians were unable to take external criticism of their actions, the official said
that they can take the "criticism in private, but not the way it was publicly being voiced in Israel".
    
"This type of public criticism is an embarrassment for them," he said.
    
Israel has been trying to soften criticisms by anti-terror experts in the media of the Indian handling of the hostage
crisis in Mumbai during which six Jewish people were killed.
    
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy told PTI that the Indian commandos did the "utmost possible" and cooperation at the highest level existed between the two sides.
    
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called upon his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh [Images] and appreciated the "bold and daring" response of the Indian army [Images] in dealing with siege.
    
A Foreign Ministry official also denied that Zaka members were working with official Israeli representatives on the
ground. "It is not exactly clear what they are doing there."
    
He said Indian authorities removed the bodies from the home, and there was no need for Zaka to do what it often is
called upon to do after terrorist attacks in Israel--to collect body parts.
    
Zaka spokesman Motti Bukjin said the group had no intention of leveling criticism at the Indian government.
    
Bukjin said Zaka volunteers worked round-the-clock in Mumbai helping identify the bodies, deal with damaged Torah
scrolls in the Chabad House and remove some of the six bodies.
    
Once these bodies were removed, Zaka volunteers remained there round-the-clock so they were not mixed up with other bodies, and together with Foreign Ministry officialsworked to ensure that no autopsies were performed on them, he said.
    
Bukjin told the daily that his organisationwould sit down with Foreign Ministry officials at a later date to "draw
conclusions" from the events in Mumbai.

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