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Speakers in Security Council urge end to Israeli attacks in Palestinian cities

Speakers in Security Council urge end to Israeli attacks in Palestinian cities

UN Security Council in session
After meeting twice behind closed doors to discuss the Middle East crisis, the United Nations Security Council today held an open debate as speaker after speaker demanded the implementation of the Council's resolution 1402 and called on Israel to halt its attacks on Palestinian areas and withdraw its forces.

After meeting twice behind closed doors to discuss the Middle East crisis, the United Nations Security Council today held an open debate as speaker after speaker demanded the implementation of the Council's resolution 1402 and called on Israel to halt its attacks on Palestinian areas and withdraw its forces.

Speaking at the outset of the debate that was expected to involve representatives of some 40 countries, Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Permanent Observer for Palestine, said at least 250 Palestinian civilians had been killed in recent days. "Water and power were cut off from vast areas, the infrastructure was destroyed, homes were stormed into, mass detentions took place, buildings, cars and properties were totally destroyed." He called for those responsible to be brought to justice. "There is no doubt that a serious stand by the international community against these crimes will assist in putting an end to such crimes and make sure that they will not be repeated," he said.

Ambassador Al-Kidwa said that Israel had chosen to ignore Security Council resolutions as well as United States President George Bush's request last Thursday for a cessation of military operations and Israeli withdrawal without delay. He added that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat would cooperate with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and others. "Our people will not give up their right to the establishment of an independent State of Palestine," he said. "But the first necessary step now is the immediate, unconditional implementation of resolution 1402."

For his part, the representative of Israel, Ambassador Yehuda Lancry, stressed that the steps laid out in resolution 1402 must be carried out simultaneously. "Israeli withdrawal, if it is not preceded by a meaningful Palestinian ceasefire, must at the very least be accompanied by one," he said. "For its part, Israel believes that with the direct involvement of Secretary Powell, the package of steps envisaged in resolution 1402, including Israel's withdrawal, can be fully implemented," he said, adding that the Palestinian side seemed to have no intention of "even declaring a ceasefire, much less implementing a meaningful one."

He said Israeli military operations, which were being conducted in a way that minimized, to the degree possible, harm to Palestinian civilians, were legally and morally necessary. "The majority of those killed have been Palestinian fighters who either fired on Israeli troops or were engaged in terrorist activities," he said. He also voiced concern over cross-border violations by the Hizbollah on Israel's northern border. He called on the Council to act immediately to end support for Hizbollah and prevent a widening of the current conflict in the Middle East.

Today's meeting was convened at the request of the Permanent Representative of Tunisia, current Chairman of the Arab Group, who called on the Council to consider "the continued escalation of the Israeli military aggression against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority, in total disregard of the resolutions of the Security Council."

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