Gaza battle moves to UNSC

Arab states seek condemnation; US promises to veto resolution; US envoy: Hamas responsible.

January 23, 2008 00:34
4 minute read.
Gaza battle moves to UNSC

gaza fuel cut 224.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

Even as Israel allowed some fuel and supplies to enter Gaza, and Kassam rockets again struck the western Negev, Israel tried to fend off a critical United Nations Security Council statement on Tuesday and boycotted a special UN Human Rights Council session. Following a wave of international criticism, Israel allowed 725,000 liters of fuel for the Gaza power plant, 250,000 liters for hospital generators, 350 tons of cooking gas and 13 trucks filled with rice, milk, wheat and medical supplies to enter the Strip. As Gaza's sole power plant reopened, Hamas fired at least 16 Kassam rockets at the Sderot area. One hit a kibbutz, several landed in and around Sderot and seven hit open areas outside the town. No one was wounded and no damage was reported. On Monday, while Israel's blockade of Gaza was still in full force, two rockets landed in Israel. Israel was busy working behind the scenes Tuesday afternoon to convince members of the United Nations Security Council to reject a draft statement submitted by Libya, chair of the council this month, that calls on Israel to "immediately cease all its illegal measures and practices against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip." The council met in an emergency meeting Tuesday, called for by the Arab states amid a growing international outcry at what the European Union called the "collective punishment" of Gaza's residents. According to officials at the Israeli Mission to the UN, the US pledged not to agree to any statement concerning the situation in Israel, and said they expected other members of the Security Council to also reject the language of the statement. Tuesday afternoon, as the 15 ambassadors negotiated the draft statement, it was still unclear what kind of statement would emerge, and officials did not expect any vote before Wednesday. Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem clarified that what was at issue was a statement, and not a Security Council resolution. "The situation in the region today did not develop overnight," Israeli Mission Counselor Gilad Cohen told the Security Council Tuesday. "It is the consequence of many choices, repeatedly the wrong choices, made by the Palestinians, to adopt terrorism and violence over peace and negotiations with Israel." Hamas controls the fate of Gaza, he said. "If terrorism ceases, life in Gaza will change. The Palestinians must understand that they will not profit from terrorism." Cohen said there can be no "moral equivalence" made between the choices of Israel and the choices of Hamas. "It is up to the international community to tell those states that initiated this debate, and those states that think singling out Israel and condemning it will bring about change, that Israeli security cannot be sacrificed. "Guaranteeing the welfare of all Israelis and Palestinians begins, first and foremost, with an end to terrorism and violence," he said. US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad told the Security Council that Hamas "bears responsibility for the current situation. The US condemns in strongest terms ongoing firing of rockets into Israel and the attacks on innocent Israelis must stop. We also expect the government of Israel to take all possible steps to avoid civilian casualties." Khalilzad said Hamas was seeking to exploit the current situation, and said the Security Council "shouldn't fall into the trap." The United Kingdom's ambassador, John Sawers, took a somewhat more critical line. He said that while the UK understands "Israel's frustration" at the continued attacks, it does not "condone" the closing of the border crossings. "Israel has the right to defend itself, but it is not acceptable to take action designed to cause suffering on the population in Gaza," Sawers said. Roni Leshno Yaar, the Foreign Ministry's deputy director general and head of it UN and International Organizations division, said that in addition to working in New York, Israel was active on this issue in Washington and in the capitals of the countries on the Security Council with whom Israel has diplomatic ties. Israel's argument, he said, was that the Security Council did not deal in the past with the indiscriminate attacks on Sderot, that Israel was only responding to those attacks and not initiating any action, and that Israel had positively responded to appeals from the international community and allowed fuel and humanitarian supplies into Gaza. While there was some optimism in the Foreign Ministry that Israel would be able to fend off too harsh a statement in the Security Council, the situation at the UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva was completely different. Simona Halperin, the director of the Foreign Ministry's International Organization and Human Rights department, said that Israel, for the first time, has decided - along with the US and Canada - to boycott a special session on the situation in the Gaza Strip scheduled for Wednesday. She said that the session was initiated last week by the Palestinians and Egypt after the IDF killed 17 people, the vast majority armed Hamas fighters. Halperin said that Israel, which has observer status on the council, decided to boycott the proceedings after it became clear that the there was "absolutely no fairness in the text." The US, like Israel, only has observer status on the body, but Canada is a full voting member. Of the five special sessions the council has held since being established in 2006, three of them have dealt with Israel, one with Darfur and one with Myanmar. Halperin said that the council has once again proven that it has been hijacked and is controlled by countries with an anti-Israeli agenda, and that it is "continuing to slip down the slope of losing the possibility of dealing with real human rights violations." Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

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