Global Policy Forum

Security Council Mulls Condemnation of Israeli Assault on Gaza


By Gerard Aziakou

Daily News Egypt
March 2, 2008

The Security Council held emergency talks late Saturday to weigh an Arab call to condemn the deadly Israeli incursion in the Gaza Strip as UN boss Ban Ki-moon pleaded for an end to the violence. Acting at the request of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas after the Israeli air and land assault on besieged Gaza, the 15-member council held closed-door consultations which were followed by an open debate.

Libya, the lone Arab member of the council, circulated a draft resolution on behalf of Arab states that "strongly condemns the killing of innocent civilians, including children" by Israeli forces. The text also calls for "an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including military attacks and the firing of rockets, and calls upon all parties to respect the ceasefire." Ban meanwhile briefed the council on "a deeply alarming escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel and a terrible civilian death toll."

Israeli forces killed 61 Palestinians in a land and air blitz in the Hamas-held Gaza Strip on Saturday in response to rocket-firing into Israel by Gaza-based militants. Ban said he conferred with Abbas, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Arab League chief Amr Moussa to press for an easing of the violence.

Amid warnings that the violence had "buried" the US-brokered Middle East peace process, the UN chief urged all parties "to rededicate their commitment to the peace process." He condemned, and called for an end to, Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, including, according to Israeli reports, use of "rockets of advanced Katyusha-like design, allegedly smuggled into Gaza when the border with Egypt was breached [in January]." While recognizing Israel's right to defend itself, Ban slammed "the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children."

Palestinian UN observer Ryad Mansour chided the council for its "wholly unjustifiable and unacceptable" inaction as Israel "continues to collectively punish the Palestinian civilian population" of Gaza. "The lack of action and lack of accountability have only led, time after time, to the perpetration of even more war crimes [by Israel] with impunity against innocent civilians, as evidenced by the tragic and violent events of today and the past week," he added.

But Israel's deputy ambassador Daniel Carmon said Hamas, "the real and only occupier of Gaza through its terror ... bears sole responsibility for the violence." He said his country had "exercised restraint for many months" but had an obligation to defend its people in the face of constant rocket firing by Hamas militants.

The Libyan draft appeals to Israel, "the occupying power, to scrupulously abide by its obligations under international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, toward the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory." But diplomats said the draft would most likely face a US veto. Arab diplomats pointed out that last January, Washington effectively blocked the adoption of a council statement that would have urged an end to Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip and to rocket firing into Israel. The United States, a steadfast ally of Israel, then argued that Israel was merely exercising its right of self defense in response to the constant rocket firing from Gaza.Anticipating a US veto of the Arab draft, Syria's UN Ambassador Bashir Jaafari told reporters: "Everybody should know who is preventing the Security Council from acting against Israel."

Abbas earlier called for "international protection for the Palestinian people" while his office said he had contacted several world leaders to press for an end to the Israeli assault. Since the Middle East peace talks were formally relaunched more than three months ago at least 295 people have been killed, according to an AFP count. At least 20 fighters were killed in Saturday's operation, most of them from Hamas, medics said. Hamas fired at least 40 rockets and mortars at southern Israel, including eight long-range rockets which crashed in and around the town of Ashkelon, 11 km north of Gaza, the Israeli army said. Six Israelis were wounded by the rockets that fell on Ashkelon, one of them seriously, it added.

More Information on the UN Security Council
More Information on UN Involvement
More Information on Israel, Palestine and the Occupied Territories
More Information on The Power of the Veto


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