Israel: UN Gaza resolution encourages Kassam crews

Israel blasted Friday's UN General Assembly resolution calling for an end to military operations in Gaza, saying that the resolution - similar to the one vetoed last week in the Security Council by the US - gave a prize to terrorists and terrorism. The resolution also called for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to send a "working investigative team" to Beit Hanun to conduct an inquiry into the errant shelling that killed 19 members of an extended family 10-days ago. Foreign Ministry officials could not confirm media reports that former US president Jimmy Carter is to lead the team. "Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip more than a year ago, but the Palestinians continue to fire rockets on Israeli cities and towns harming innocent civilians," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. He said the terrorists hide behind human shields, and "the UN decision gives them encouragement to continue." He said that Israel would not cooperate with any UN team set to investigate the Beit Hanun incident. The General Assembly overwhelmingly passed what Israel called a "one-sided" resolution at an emergency session. The resolution "deeply deplores" the Israeli offensive, in particular the Beit Hanun killings, and calls on Israel to immediately halt its operation and pull its troops out of the Gaza Strip. A last-minute addition calls on the Palestinian Authority to take action to bring an end to violence, including the firing of rockets on Israeli territory. Israel's Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman termed the session a "farce" and a "circus," and walked out after delivering his speech to the Assembly. He then held his own press conference. The Arab League had asked for the session after the US vetoed a similar Security Council draft resolution against Israel's actions last weekend. The General Assembly resolution passed by a vote of 156 to 7, with six abstentions. Israel, the US, Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau voted against. Canada, Ivory Coast, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu abstained. All the European Union members supported the resolution. There are no vetoes in the 192-member General Assembly, and the chamber's resolutions are nonbinding, considered more a reflection of international opinion. Gillerman said the Palestinians had turned the Gaza Strip into a launching pad for terrorist attacks against Israel, and that more than 1,000 rockets had been fired into Israel from there over the last year. He said Israel has been forced to defend itself because the Hamas-led government has not acceded to international demands to renounce violence, recognize Israel and honor past peace agreements with the Jewish state. "The debate this morning ... offers the Hamas government no incentive to renounce their ways of terror," he said. "They have a monopoly on this assembly's attention and sympathy. Without forcing the Palestinians to shoulder their responsibilities, there will be no change." At his press conference, Gillerman dismissed the resolution for omitting any reference to Hamas. He said the General Assembly was being "hijacked, used and abused" by member states who turned victims into accused and terrorists into victims. US Ambassador John Bolton said it was ironic the assembly held a special session on the Palestinian question a day after one of its committees passed a resolution stressing the need to avoid politically motivated and biased human rights resolutions. "We believe that the United Nations is ill-served when its members seek to transform the organization into a forum that is little more than a self-serving and polemical attack against Israel or the United States," he said in the session. Gillerman also targeted Syria and Iran for criticism in his remarks, saying the two countries were fueling terrorism and extremism in the Middle East. He said Teheran had just given $120 million to the Hamas government, and was giving Hizbullah more than $100m. a year. He called Hizbullah "the finger on the long bloody arm and twisted mind of Teheran." "Who knows what they will use that money for? The international community must put a stop to their genocidal regimes," he said. The Palestinian UN observer, Riyad Mansour, said earlier that Israel had committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians in its nearly five-month offensive, which was sparked by the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit. He said 82 Palestinians were killed during a six-day assault on Beit Hanun this month. "What is required is serious and firm action in response to these crimes, especially the massacre in Beit Hanun, as well as putting an end to this rampant Israeli campaign, which intends to destroy an entire people," Mansour told the General Assembly. Iran's UN Ambassador Javad Zarif accused Israel and the United States of repeating "baseless and tired allegations." He also told the General Assembly immediately after Bolton spoke that the US was "protecting the Israeli regime and providing it with cover" to continue its "dangerous criminal behavior with total impunity."