A strong police presence descended on Havelock North yesterday as Israeli ambassador Yosef Livne arrived to give a talk on the conflict in Gaza.
Pro and anti-Israel groups waved banners and sang songs near the town centre as Livne and his entourage made their way to the Havelock North Club, where he spoke to more than 100 people.
The talk was advertised as being on "Israel's foreign policy in the 21st century", but was from the outset an explanation for Israel's actions in Gaza, where it has been widely condemned for the high number of women and children killed in its military offensive.
Livne questioned how many of the 1500 to 1600 deaths in Gaza in the past few weeks were genuinely civilians and how many were militants. Hamas was determined to destroy Israel, he said, and its tactics of launching bombs from civilian areas had resulted in the civilian deaths.
He claimed Israel did everything within its powers to minimise those deaths and said: "Israel is not in the business of killing citizens.
"We still don't know how many of the 1500-1600 dead in Gaza were innocent civilians . . . There is no responsible Israeli that feels happiness over the death of a single Palestinian civilian.
"There are people here who want me expelled because there are 1600 civilians dead. Next time he talks to me, I'll ask him: ‘When was the last time you determined who was a civilian?'."
Livne said: "The Israeli Army investigates every single case where we know civilians have been killed."
But when a woman asked how these investigations were carried out, Livne said he was not sure but he believed they involved video recordings.
Speaking after the talk, he said every Israeli military action involved the use of videos.
"I read it yesterday that the military has videos. The army has a way of investigating. I do not know all the details, but I know they have video shots of military operations, they have audio . . ."
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