- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel’s defense minister on Thursday said Israeli forces “cannot be trigger happy” in the face of relentless attacks by Palestinians, echoing similar remarks by the country’s military chief a day earlier.

The comments by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot come as Israel has faced criticism by the Palestinians and others for what they say is an excessive use of force amid a five month-long wave of violence.

“We cannot be trigger happy,” Yaalon told a conference in northern Israel. “We need to act with restraint, without creating circumstances in which boiling blood causes us to become desensitized, to lose morals in a way that erodes our way and its justness.”

On Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot told a meeting with high school students that when “there is a 13-year-old girl who is holding scissors or a knife and there is a barrier between her and the soldiers, I wouldn’t want a soldier to open fire and empty a magazine on a girl like that even if she commits a very serious act.” He urged soldiers to use only “necessary force” and said that the military’s rules of engagement allowed for a response in life-threatening situations.

The outburst of violence, which began in September, has shown no signs of abating. Near-daily attacks by Palestinians, mostly stabbings, have killed 27 Israelis. Some 162 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, among them 115 said by Israel to be attackers. Many have been teenagers.

Israel says the violence is fueled by a Palestinian campaign of lies and incitement. The Palestinians say it is the result of frustrations stemming from living under Israel’s nearly 50-year-old occupation.

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