Attack by Israel on Gaza City condemned in Security Council debate

Attack by Israel on Gaza City condemned in Security Council debate

One day after Israel launched a deadly air raid on an apartment building in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations Security Council met late Wednesday night for an open debate on the repercussions of the bombing amid wide condemnation of the attack and appeals to end the violence.

During the three-hour debate, which concluded close to midnight, many speakers underscored that Israel had obligations under international humanitarian law to refrain from violence against civilians. Israel's recent actions were called unjustifiable and counterproductive because they undermined trust between the parties and bred new violence. Speakers called on both sides to refrain from violence and to return to the negotiating table.

The Observer for Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, said Israel had taken the "repugnant" practice of extrajudiciary executions to a new, extreme level by knowingly and deliberately killing 15 innocent civilians. He added that the Israeli assault on Gaza City represented the first blatant war crime committed by the Israeli occupying forces since the International Criminal Court entered into force this month, and since the attack fell within the Court's jurisdiction, measures should be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Pointing out that the crime had been committed when serious efforts were being undertaken to curb violence and restore some cooperative measures between the two sides, he said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who had initially labelled the crime a "great success," was once more trying his utmost to prevent any progress towards restoring a meaningful peace process.

Israel's representative, Aaron Jacob, said the country did not celebrate the deaths of innocents as a military "victory" as its adversaries did. Israel's leaders had voiced their deep regret for the civilian deaths and injuries. Israel's actions were aimed at protecting civilians from Palestinian terrorist threat. He said the attack partly resulted from the fact that the Palestinian Authority, although fully aware of the location of the terrorist Salah Shehada, had never "lifted a finger to arrest him."

Israel was fully committed to its dialogue with Palestinian officials to discuss ways to move forward, he continued. The country had begun to implement measures aimed at improving the situation of the Palestinians, but the notion that Israeli withdrawal should occur in a vacuum, independently of any Palestinian action, clearly contravened President Bush's landmark speech, endorsed by the Quartet statement on 16 July and relevant Council resolutions.

A number of participants said the need for an international response in the Middle East heightened the importance of the recent efforts of the Quartet - the UN, European Union, United States and the Russian Federation - to bring peace to the region. Participants stressed that the UN should not give up on the vision of Israeli and Palestinian States existing side by side in peace, within internationally recognized borders.