Mark C. Toner
Daily Press Briefing
March 2, 2016
INDEX FOR TODAY'S BRIEFING
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
2:08 p.m. EST
QUESTION: Can I change topics?
MR TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli issues?
MR TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: First of all, could you confirm to us whether an Arab member of the Knesset, Haneen Zoabi, had meetings here in the – she’s in town. She’s under suspension order because she visited with some of the families of Palestinians that lost children to arrange for the return of their bodies and so on. So she’s been suspended from the Knesset. She’s had meetings here. Can you tell us who she met with?
MR TONER: I don’t – I can’t. I apologize, Said.
QUESTION: Okay, no problem.
MR TONER: I don’t have that information.
QUESTION: Now, my second question is regarding Mahmoud Muhammad Shaalan, an American teenager that was —
MR TONER: Right.
QUESTION: — shot and killed last week. I asked you last Friday, I asked —
MR TONER: Yeah, you did.
QUESTION: — Kirby on Monday. Are you following up with the Israelis to determine the circumstances under which he was killed?
MR TONER: So we obviously confirm that U.S. citizen Mahmoud Muhammad Shaalan was killed in the West Bank last week. We are in touch with the Israelis and have requested from them more information about the circumstances of his death. I don’t have anything further to share at this point, but we are engaged with them and looking into the circumstances of this tragic incident.
QUESTION: Are you in touch with the family? Because his father and grandfather – he was there attending school, and his father and grandfather left Florida, I guess, to – last week. Are you in touch with them in any way or —
MR TONER: I can imagine in terms of – obviously – and I don’t want to go too far here for – out of respect for the family’s privacy, but in any case like this, our consular section or our consular officers would be in touch with the family in dealing with, obviously, whatever their needs were, but also the – repatriating the remains.
QUESTION: And my last question is: Today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked his legal advisor for some advice on how to deport families of Palestinians that attack Israelis and so on to Gaza. Was that something that you would ask the Israelis not to do?
MR TONER: Well, seen those reports. I think I’ll answer it this way: We would urge all sides to take affirmative actions that help restore calm and prevent actions that would further escalate tensions. In our view, this kind of step would only – or would raise, I guess, similar concerns that – to those we have about punitive home demolition, which we believe only exacerbate tensions on the ground and are counterproductive.
QUESTION: Yeah, but this – it’s not even home demolition. This is deportation of —
MR TONER: I understand.
QUESTION: — West Bank family into Gaza. That would be collective punishment, wouldn’t it?
MR TONER: Again, we – and we’ve seen no confirmation of this. I’ve seen the reports of his remarks. I’d refer you to the prime minister’s office, obviously. But we would be concerned.