SPEAKERS IN SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMN
Appeals for Dialogue, Moderation also Heard
NEW YORK, 24 July (UN Headquarters) -- Yesterday, Israel had taken the repugnant practice of extrajudiciary executions to a new, extreme level, when in an air attack on a residential area of Gaza City, along with the targeted person, the occupying forces knowingly and deliberately killed 15 innocent civilians -– men, women and children, the Security Council was told as it considered the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, late into the night today.
Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer for Palestine, further said 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. That action definitely fell within the jurisdiction of the Court, and measures should be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice.
He added that the crime had been committed when serious efforts were being undertaken to curb violence and restore some cooperative measures between the two sides. Obviously, 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 did not celebrate the deaths of innocents as a military "victory", as its adversaries did, that country’s representative said. The country’s leaders, including Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Peres, had expressed their deep regret for the deaths of civilians, particularly children, and the injuries caused to many others. Israel’s actions were part of ongoing efforts to protect civilians from the unrelenting threat of Palestinian terrorism. One of the causes for the attack was the lack of action on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which was fully aware of the location of Salah Shehada -- one of the most brutal terrorists in the history of the Middle East -- and capable of bringing him to justice, but 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. Israel had begun to implement measures aimed at improving the situation of the Palestinians and rebuilding mutual trust, including releasing funds to the Palestinian Authority, issuing more work permits for Palestinians and loosening restrictions on movement. However, 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. In that regard, the Council would not serve the interests of peace by focusing so intently on Israeli actions while ignoring the responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority.
Most speakers in the debate condemned the attack, agreeing that Israel had obligations under international humanitarian law to refrain from violence against civilians. In light of the repercussions the attack might have on the region as a whole, the international community could not remain silent. The tragic situation called upon the international community to act firmly to put an end to dangers that were threatening the future of the region.
Speakers called on both sides to refrain from violence, which could provoke others, and return to the negotiating table, with assistance from the international community. Israel’s recent actions were called unjustifiable and counterproductive, for they undermined the trust between the parties and bred new violence.
It was said that the need to break the vicious circle in the Middle East had underscored the importance of the recent efforts of the Quartet -- United Nations, European Union, United States, Russian Federation -- to bring peace to the area. That was the only possible course of action that could lead to a just and lasting settlement of the conflict. Participants in the discussion stressed that the United Nations should not give up on the vision of Israeli and Palestinian States existing side by side in peace, within internationally recognized borders.
The representative of France said that, while Israel had a legitimate right to defend itself against terrorism, such acts as the one committed yesterday could in no way help to resolve the current crisis. Israel had a legal and moral responsibility to avoid the loss of innocent lives. It must refrain from having recourse to extrajudicial executions, in which, all too often, civilians were also victims.
The United States representative said that the Council, in its resolutions, had provided a clear direction for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, calling for a cessation of violence and endorsing the statements of the Quartet members. Resolutions and statements already adopted formed a more than adequate basis to find a solution to the Middle East question. Focus should be on constructive diplomatic efforts to realize the two-State solution that everybody was seeking.
Also stressed in the debate was the need for the Council to ensure implementation of its own resolutions, for otherwise the body responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security would lose credibility. Several speakers also called for the creation of a peacekeeping force in the area.
Calling for the establishment of an international protection and observer force "to stop the atrocities at the hands of the Israelis", the representative of Iran said that it was the threat of the use of veto that had prevented the Council from carrying out its responsibilities. Undoubtedly, the inaction of the Council was encouraging Israel.
Statements were also made by representatives of Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Norway, Russian Federation, Mauritius, Syria, Singapore, Colombia, Mexico, Cameroon, China, Bulgaria, Guinea, United Kingdom, Egypt, Chile, Jordan, Bahrain, Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Pakistan, Iraq, Japan, Sudan, Malaysia, South Africa, Kuwait, India, Indonesia, Cuba and Yemen.
Also addressing the Council were the representatives of the League of Arab States, and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
The meeting started at 7:12 p.m. and ended at 11:10 p.m.
The Security Council met this evening to consider the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, following a request for the meeting by the Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia, in his capacity as Chairman of the Arab Group and on behalf of members of the League of Arab States.
In his letter of 23 July requesting the meeting (document S/2002/828), the Permanent Representative asked the Council "to consider the continued Israeli military aggression against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority, and the extremely grave deteriorating situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem". The Arab Group requested the Council to consider immediate measures to ensure an end to the current tragic situation and the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions.
NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said the Israeli military attack on Gaza City yesterday was carried out as a targeted killing. The repugnant practice of extrajudiciary execution had been repeatedly condemned by the international community and constituted a war crime. Yesterday, Israel had taken this practice to a new, extreme level, as the occupying forces knowingly and deliberately killed innocent civilians -- men, women and children -- in the attack, along with the targeted person, Salah Shehada.
The Israeli assault represented the first blatant war crime committed by the Israeli occupying forces since the entry into force this month of the International Criminal Court (ICC), he continued. That action definitely fell within the jurisdiction of the Court and, as such, measures to bring the perpetrators to justice should be taken. At the same time, this latest Israeli war crime had been committed when serious efforts were being undertaken to curb violence and restore some cooperative measures between the two sides. Obviously, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who labelled the crime a "great success", was once more trying his utmost to prevent any progress towards restoring a meaningful peace process.
As of today, more than 1,705 Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli occupying forces in military attacks since September 2000, he said. That tragic figure did not include the hundreds of other Palestinians that had died as a result of other illegal practices being carried out by the occupying Power. Further, the Israeli military siege on the headquarters of President Yasser Arafat in the Palestinian city of Ramallah continues, in violation of all norms and logic, representing a direct attack on the leader and symbol of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority.
The Government of Mr. Sharon had been trying to portray its policies and practices as simply a response to the suicide bombings, he said. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the Palestinian side had condemned that practice that had undermined the Palestinian national interest. In fact, what the Israeli Government had been doing was intended to serve clear political objectives, expressed repeatedly by Mr. Sharon. His aims had always been to drag everyone back to a pre-Oslo situation and destroy the Palestinian Authority, while inflicting maximum pain, suffering and loss on the Palestinian people. Only in this manner could he guarantee blocking any possibility for a serious peace settlement so that the occupation and the colonization and settlement activities could continue.
AARON JACOB (Israel) said that Israeli forces had undertaken military action as part of their ongoing efforts to protect civilians from the unrelenting threat of Palestinian terrorism. The target of the attack had been Salah Shehada, one of the most brutal terrorists in the history of the Middle East. Along with him, a second leading Hamas operative had been killed. To his great regret, 14 Palestinians had been also killed in the attack. Israel’s leaders, including Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Peres, had expressed their deep regret for the deaths of civilians, particularly children, and the injuries caused to many others.
Yesterday’s action had been precipitated by the failure of the Palestinian Authority to respect its most basic obligation to prevent its territory from being used as a base for terrorist operations, he said. As a consequence of that failure, hundreds of Israeli civilians had been killed, and thousands wounded in scores of terrorist attacks carried out with the financial, logistical and moral support of the Palestinian leadership, including Chairman Arafat himself. In such a climate, Israel had been left with no choice, but to take action to protect its people from the threat posed by individuals like Salah Shehada who had been the military leader of terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Despite Israel’s numerous requests that he be arrested, the Palestinian Authority, which was fully aware of his location and capable of bringing him to justice, had never "lifted a finger to arrest him". In planning yesterday’s operation, Israeli forces had not anticipated the extent of the collateral damage that would result from the air strike. The matter was now the subject of an internal investigation by Israeli authorities. Had Israel known the result beforehand, it would have never carried out the operation. Israeli commanders took no pleasure in the loss of innocent life. His country did not celebrate the deaths of innocents as a military "victory", as its adversaries did.
Israeli withdrawal was merely one component of what was intended to be a multi-faceted package aimed at returning the parties to a political process. Israel had begun to implement measures aimed at improving the situation of the Palestinians and rebuilding mutual trust, including the release of funds to the Palestinian Authority, issuing more work permits for Palestinian labourers and loosening restrictions on movement.
Israeli and Palestinian officials had been meeting to discuss ways to move forward, and Israel was fully committed to that constructive dialogue. The notion that Israeli withdrawal should occur in a vacuum, independently of any Palestinian action, clearly contravened President Bush’s landmark speech, indorsed by the Quartet statement and Council resolutions 1402 and 1403. In that regard, the Council would not serve the interests of peace by focusing so intently on Israeli actions while ignoring the responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority. Israel could not be expected to take unilateral action that would drastically increase the risk to Israeli civilians, and that had been shown to result directly in the increased loss of innocent life. Israel still believed there could be no military solution to the conflict, and Israelis still believed peace could be achieved and compromises should be made, provided there was a genuine partner on the other side, prepared to do its part.
FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said the world had followed the premeditated, deliberate and planned shelling of a heavily populated residential area in Gaza. That attack had led to the death of 15 persons, including nine children. There was no logic to that heinous crime committed by Israel. It was a strike at all efforts made to end violence and encourage the parties to the conflict to resume peace negotiations. The Israeli shelling reflected its lack of desire to seek peace and stability. Its predetermined plan of excessive force, retribution and revenge had been executed in the hope that that would lead to an exacerbation of the situation. All that had occurred confirmed its lack of seriousness in arriving at peace with the Arab world.
Faced with deliberate destruction and siege, the annexation of their territories, settlements, attempts to erode the peace process, despair, continued frustration and failure by the Security Council to respect its resolutions, Palestinians were asking what their choices were, he said. Violence would only beget violence and peace could only come in an environment suitable to the peace process. Withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 would help the region reach peace and stability and push forward the move for a Palestinian State.
He called upon the international community to move immediately to put Israel face to face with its responsibilities in accordance with Security Council resolutions. Israel must give up systematic violence and be forced to work towards favourable conditions for peace. In light of the repercussions the recent attack might have on the region as a whole, the international community could not remain silent or accept that such an event was common. The tragic situation called upon the international community to act firmly to put an end to dangers that were threatening the future of the region.
JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) said his country and the European Union had strongly condemned the military action by Israel in a particularly densely populated area of Gaza, which had resulted in deaths of civilians, including children. Today, he wanted to reiterate that condemnation. While Israel had a legitimate right to defend itself against terrorism, such acts as the one committed yesterday could in no way help to resolve the current crisis. Israel had a legal and moral responsibility to avoid the loss of innocent lives. It must refrain from having recourse to extrajudicial executions, in which, all too often, civilians were also victims.
Yesterday’s attack had taken place at a time when certain reassuring signs had emerged, including a resumption of direct contact between Israeli and Palestinian officials. There had been hopes that the two sides would return to dialogue. The actions in Gaza had jeopardized those efforts. Violence could not be a solution for those who wanted to establish a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Two States, Israel and Palestine, should be able to live side by side within recognized and defined borders.
He called on both sides to refrain from violence, which could provoke others, and return to dialogue. The need to break the vicious circle in the Middle East had underscored the work of the Quartet. That was the only possible course of action that could lead to a just and lasting settlement of the conflict. Both Israel and the Palestinians should refrain from violence and return to the negotiation table, with assistance from the international community.
RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said yesterday’s attack in Gaza had not been a reasoned or proportionate response to the threat of terrorism. The use of air-launched, high-calibre missiles in densely populated areas could only result in large-scale civilian casualties. To suggest otherwise was disingenuous. The political and military leadership of a Member State that had decided upon yesterday’s action in Gaza was fully familiar both with the destructive capacity of the ordnance used and the high density of civilian habitation in the precise location that was targeted.
There was not a military solution to the Middle East conflict, he said. It could only be resolved through dialogue and renewed negotiation, with appropriate international support. That support could best be offered on the basis of steps identified in successive statements of the Quartet. There must be parallel progress on the political, security, humanitarian and institution-building tracks, which must lead to the establishment of a Palestinian State within the three-year period mentioned by the Quartet. An international conference should be convened as soon as possible to give structure to the ongoing effort towards the objective set by the Quartet -- that is, a just, comprehensive, and lasting settlement of the entire Middle East conflict.
It was a harsh reality that Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories had had appalling consequences for the Palestinian population, he said. That situation had been developing rapidly into a humanitarian catastrophe. As the occupying Power, Israel could not shrug off its responsibility for this catastrophe. He welcomed the proposed release by Israel of a small part of the revenues due to the Palestinian Authority and the re-admittance of a small number of Palestinian workers to employment in Israel.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said that his country strongly regretted the loss of lives of innocent civilians and called on Israel to stop attacks that could cost innocent lives. He called on everyone with any influence on the Palestinian Authority to prevent terrorist attacks. His country had expressed sympathy for Israeli security concerns, but extrajudicial killings should stop. Suspects should be tried in accordance with the rule of law.
The attacks had come at a time when both sides had reported progress in the peace process, he continued. He called on the parties not to allow the latest attack to destroy that progress. Both parties should act responsibly and demonstrate political will to break the vicious circle of violence. He welcomed the outcome of the recent meeting of the Quartet. International efforts were being streamlined and strengthened.
The international community must respond positively and publicly to genuine reform measures, he said. The mobilization of technical and financial support from the international community was urgently required. "We must avoid delays, which, in the current situation, can be very costly", he stressed. Israel must cease closures, lift curfews and release Palestinian revenues. Without Israeli commitment, the reform process would fail, and the reaction of the Palestinian society would increase the insecurity in the area. A political solution was needed.
GENNADY GATILOV (Russian Federation) said yesterday’s attack on Gaza City could only instigate a new round of violence. Together with effective efforts to eliminate terrorist attacks, Israel must abandon its present retaliatory practice. Acts of force allowing extremist forces to take the initiative must be avoided.
Simultaneous with an agreed decision to end violence and fight against terrorism, it was essential to find a way forward in other key areas -- namely, the reform of the Palestinian Authority and the political process, he said. It was vital for Israel to unfreeze Palestinian assets, lift restrictions on Palestinian mobility, withdraw roadblocks in the Palestinian territories and remove troops from Palestinian towns.
Russia was convinced that the Security Council resolutions contained the legal and political basis for moving towards a final settlement of the conflict. On the fundamental parameters of that process, broad-based consensus had already been reached. Russia and other members of the Quartet would continue to work towards a just settlement in the Middle East.
JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) condemned yesterday’s attack by Israel. His country also condemned terrorist attacks by the Palestinian side, but retaliatory attacks would not resolve the situation. There had been unanimous condemnation of the attack on Gaza City all over the world.
Mauritius believed that the use of the F-16 aircraft against civilian targets could not be tolerated, he continued. The attack had taken place at a time when serious measures were being taken to stop the violence. The Israeli actions were not all conducive to peace and reconciliation. In fact, they could lead to more anger and retaliatory measures on behalf of the Palestinians. He hoped that the investigation promised by Israel would focus on why an F-16 had been used against civilian targets. As a State under international humanitarian laws, Israel had the responsibility to take all measures to avoid unnecessary civilian loss of life.
Just last week, the Council had welcomed the efforts of the Quartet and the international community to find a solution, which would allow Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side within secure boundaries. Renewed commitment for genuine and constructive dialogue was needed in order to preserve that process. It was also important for Israel to stop all settlement activities and refrain from constructing a new security fence. He called on the Palestinians not to take any retaliatory measures following the Israeli attack and stop terrorist activities directed at Israeli civilians. As a matter of extreme urgency, all necessary assistance should be provided by the international community to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians.
MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said the attack on Gaza City had resulted in more than 15 martyrs and 150 injured persons. Even Israeli sympathizers had deplored the act, denounced and rejected such practices. They could no longer justify what had happened or believe the motives behind those acts. Many Israelis themselves had described the missile attack as a war crime in the context of international humanitarian law. Some said that the act was a true expression of the terrorism of the Israeli State. Many world leaders had described the act as senseless, brutal, flagrant and unjustified, which would exacerbate the Middle East conflict. Many world leaders had called for immediate and decisive action to end brutal Israeli acts of aggression. Such an act of aggression was a clear rejection on the part of the Israeli Government of the peace process.
Despite protests about the attack around the world, the Israeli Prime Minister did not hide his real intentions, he continued. He declared that the operation was one of the most successful launched by the army in recent years. Was that not transmitted by media outlets around the world? Was this not taking pleasure in killing innocent children?
Syria was convinced that successive Israeli leaders had done all they could to avoid the process of peace, particularly the withdrawal from all occupied territories, he said. Had Israel been serious about peace for the region, the international community would not have needed to waste its time and effort for no reason other than the desire by Israel to continue its occupation. Since 1948, Israel had been committing one massacre after another, using the unfounded justification that they were fighting injustice and terror. That show of senseless force had been put on for one reason -- to deprive the Palestinian people of the right to self-determination. The policy of terror, killing and destruction had been a constant in Israeli policy over the years.
The recent carnage was yet another incentive for the Security Council and international community to bring all pressure to bear on Israel, to hold it responsible under international community humanitarian law, he said. The Council should call on Israel to lift its stifling siege on Palestinians, and to put an end to acts of aggression against the Palestinian people. Was the international community going to allow Israel to remain above the law?
Also condemning yesterday’s attack, KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said his country deplored in the strongest terms all attacks that targeted civilians, on both sides. Yesterday’s events could undermine recent efforts to normalize the situation in the area. It was unacceptable and counter- productive, and Israel should halt such actions. Under international law, that country had the responsibility to refrain from attacks targeting civilians. However, the Palestinian Authority should also make efforts to stop terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian population. One wrong act did not justify another. Under current conditions, Palestinians should exercise restraint. In that connection, he noted that Ambassador Al-Kidwa had reiterated that the Palestinian Authority had condemned the terrorist activities.
It was important that the Council had responded promptly to the request by the Arab Group to convene today’s meeting, he continued. The Council should find ways to implement its own resolutions, for non-implementation weakened the authority of the Council. He hoped the international community would not be held hostage by the actions of extremists on both sides who were determined to jeopardize the peace process. Existing peace agreements and resolutions needed to be built upon. It was important for the international community to address the issues of security and development at the same time. The proposal calling for the deployment of an impartial and robust international force should not be forgotten.
A strong diplomatic vehicle was needed to drive the peace process, he said, and the Quartet would provide a "strong four-wheel vehicle" in that respect. The vision of two States living side by side in peace and security should not be abandoned. When endorsing the Quartet actions last week, the Council had expressed interest in the proposed three-year goal for resolving the crisis in the Middle East. That goal should also be preserved.
ANDRES FRANCO (Colombia) said the attack on Gaza City was an unacceptable extrajudicial killing, which deserved full and emphatic condemnation. It could not have taken place at a worse political moment. There had recently been positive signs to halt the circle of violence and terror in recent months, and encouraging possibilities of ending the suicide attacks. But following the Gaza attack, there was now a sense that the situation might get out of all proportion.
He respected Israel’s right to provide for its own security and condemned the acts of terror on its territory. However, he failed to understand how a military attack in a densely population area had contributed to Israel’s security or to the peace process. A solution to the conflict in the Middle East should instead include resolution of important issues, such as the economic and humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people and the creation of a Palestinian State. The international community must be mindful of its common objectives of peace throughout the region and the principle of land for peace.
JOHN NEGROPONTE (United States) stressed that both sides should do everything possible to build peace in the area. Recently, President Bush had set forth a goal of Palestinians and Israelis living side by side within internationally recognized borders. That vision had received support from the Council earlier this year. The President also believed that such a goal could be achieved within three years. It was important to address both Israeli actions and those of Palestinian terrorists, which were aimed at jeopardizing the peace process. Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians, including two such attacks last week, were a cause of serious concern for the whole international community. It was necessary to question why they were not more often the focus of attention within the United Nations.
He said the United States was concerned about some Israeli tactics and actions, including targeted killings and actions that involved innocent civilians. President Bush had made it clear that heavy-handed actions on 23 July had not served the goal of peace. His country had made that concern known directly to the Israeli Government.
Reviewing United States actions to improve the situation, he said that Palestinian civil reform was aimed at restoring political dialogue and improving the situation there. The United States would continue its efforts to advance the situation. Both sides needed to reduce violence and terrorist attacks, and the United States would work towards restoring security cooperation between the sides.
He also expressed concern about the dire humanitarian situation faced by the Palestinians, saying that his country had provided significant assistance towards alleviation of the situation. Israel had an important role to play to facilitate access for humanitarian relief and try to restore economic activity in the Palestinian areas. Such steps as easing closures and releasing frozen Palestinian revenues would be critical for progress.
The Council, in its resolutions, had provided a clear direction for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, calling for cessation of violence and endorsing the statements of the Quartet members. Resolutions and statements already adopted formed a more than adequate basis to find a solution to the Middle East question, he said. Focus should be on constructive diplomatic efforts to realize the two-State solution that everybody was seeking.
ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said Israel had gained and prevented nothing by its attack on Gaza City. On other occasions, his country had repudiated terrorist acts by Palestinians in Israel, in which innocent civilians had also died. It repudiated continuing acts of terror, which were scarring present and future generations. The international community should take all necessary measures to restore security, both in Israel and Palestine, ending the circle of violence in which the Middle East seemed to be trapped.
Acts of violence were happening at the same time as international initiatives to find a substantive solution to the Middle East problem, he said. Military actions and terrorist attacks generated more violence in the Middle East and undermined valuable efforts to get the peace process started again. He called on the parties to comply without delay with the provisions of Security Council resolution 1397, which called for the cessation of all violence, including terrorism, incitement and destruction.
Political negotiations, security arrangements, humanitarian assistance and the building of Palestinian institutions should be the most important aspects of building towards peace. The international community needed to step up efforts to restart peace initiatives in the Middle East. He supported the concept in which two States -- Israel and Palestine -- would live side by side.
MARTIN CHUNGONG AYAFOR (Cameroon) recalled that previous Council decisions had condemned all violence in the area. The international community had hoped that restraint and common sense would prevail. Yesterday’s action in Gaza City had jeopardized the progress, however. Blind violence on both sides was continuing. Under those conditions, the duty of the Council and United Nations Members was to rise up to the challenge in order to let a logic of peace prevail. His delegation reminded the Council that dialogue and negotiations were the only way to peace. Violence could only breed violence.
The recent Israeli actions, which had resulted in civilian deaths, including those of women and children, could not be justified, he said. He called on Israel and Palestine to use reason and dialogue. Although such a dialogue was still in a fragile stage, he called on both sides to take it seriously. Actions based on a relationship of force were dangerous, for they would take the peoples away from the vision of the peaceful future. His delegation fully subscribed to any initiatives that would bring about dialogue directed at achieving a just and lasting peace in the area.
WANG YINGFAN (China) said the Israeli attack on Gaza City had seriously interfered with efforts by the international community to seek a solution to the Middle East conflict. To realize peace in the region, Israel must abide by Security Council resolutions and withdraw from occupied Palestinian territory.
The escalation of violence in recent days had further illustrated that the international community needed to step up efforts to promote a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Middle East question. Only when that goal was in sight could extremists be isolated; two States live side by side; and decades of violence and terror be ended.
STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) said that last week two terrorist attacks had caused civilian deaths in Israel, and yesterday an Israeli attack had caused civilian deaths in Gaza City. The sight of children’s corpses was unbearable. The lives of the most vulnerable should be respected, and that appeal went out to both parties. Israel had a right to take action to prevent terrorist attacks on its territory. However, its latest actions had been unjustifiable and counterproductive. He deplored the loss of human lives caused by that attack.
There was a pressing need to put an end to the situation breeding terrorism, including the dire humanitarian situation within the Palestinian society. It was also important to stop the glorification of terrorism. Bulgaria supported the statement of the Quartet at the ministerial level on 16 July. It was fully in line with relevant Council resolutions, which were tracing a way towards peace in the area. Only through the implementation of those resolutions was it possible to find a lasting solution to the problem.
He went on to say that one of the important aspects of the problem had been the attention rightly given to the efforts to give greater legitimacy to the Palestinian Authority. Only democracy could resolve the problems of the Palestinians, and he fully supported the efforts being made in that direction. Both Palestinians and Israelis needed to believe in the possibility of living side by side within internationally recognized borders. It was important for the parties to the conflict not to be seduced by the temptation of retaliating after acts of violence. He hoped that recent modest signs of resumed dialogue would continue.
BOUBACAR DIALLO (Guinea) said Israel had used combat aircraft under the pretext of going after a terrorist chief, which had resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. The excessive use of force was counterproductive and could only increase the violence. There was no doubt that the Palestinians were willing to seek peace, and had resumed contact in an effort to do so.
The recent meeting of the Quartet in New York had staunchly supported a final resolution of the Middle East conflict within a three-year time frame, with two States living side by side within safe and recognized borders. That and other initiatives showed that the international community wished to end the long-suffering conflict.
Speaking in his national capacity, JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said that violence, which, once again, was having an upper hand in the area, was unacceptable and counterproductive. While recognizing Israel’s right to protect itself, his country believed that its actions should be neither disproportionate, nor excessive. Israel must avoid civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure and property. However, he wanted to stress that no actions of violence could be justified, on any side. He also condemned the practice of extrajudicial killings.
Ordinary Israelis and Palestinians deserved peace and security, he said, which could only be achieved through negotiations. Both sides should focus on creating the conditions needed for the resumption of negotiations. The United Kingdom had been closely following the efforts to restart the political process. He hoped that despite the violence, the negotiations would not falter. It was important to preserve the efforts to resolve the situation with the goal of peaceful Israeli and Palestinian States living side by side within three years. Israel must take immediate and concrete steps in support of the creation of a viable Palestinian State.
As stated by European leaders, a solution was an end to the occupation and a sovereign Palestinian State. There was now a remarkable degree of international agreement about that vision. His country was in constant touch with the United States and both sides in order to break the cycle of violence and resume the peace process.
ABOUL ATTA (Egypt) said the barbaric act that Israel had committed on Gaza was only an episode in a series of war crimes against the Palestinian people, which personified Israel’s contempt of international resolutions. The international community could not consider it as an act of self-defence. No civilized human being could justify that act, which fell squarely under the heading of war crimes.
That brutal attack took place when indications suggested that the Hamas movement would agree to end all attacks that might harm civilians. The Israeli crime confirmed Egypt’s belief that the Israeli Government wished to dynamite any possibility for peace in the Middle East and would use brutal means to do so.
It was now the duty of the international community to intervene to protect the Palestinian people and restore what was left of the peace process. He called on the Quartet to use resolutions of international integrity in reaching a just solution to the crisis.
CRISTIAN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) reiterated his country’s rejection of the use of force against civilian population, by any party and for any reason. In that connection, he condemned yesterday’s attack by Israel, which had taken place at a time when work was under way to restore confidence in the area. Such acts were an assault on the basic principles that governed relations between members of humankind. Peace in the Middle East must be restored on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions. The Palestinian Authority should be a major player in the peace process.
Such policies as those of internal closures, curfews and targeted killings only undermined the situation in the area, he said. He was also concerned about the serious humanitarian situation within Palestinian camps and settlements. Chile concurred with the majority international view, which called for an end to any Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories.
He went on to say that he viewed with satisfaction the prospect of an international conference on the situation in the Middle East. Negotiations should restart on an equal footing. The conclusions reached by the Quartet earlier this month had refreshed hopes for a just and lasting solution.
Prince ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said it was regrettable to witness the recent escalation of events prompted by the Israeli Government, as the international community pushed forward efforts for peace. The latest act of aggression in Gaza was considered a flagrant violation of the principles of international humanitarian law. He recalled the difficult circumstances under which the Palestinian leadership was living and the restricted conditions of its people.
Israel continued to practise war crimes against the Palestinian people, he continued. Those acts further exacerbated the situation in the Palestinian territory in the security, political and humanitarian fields. It was unfortunate that Israel had never viewed the instability from which the Palestinian and Arab region suffered. Instead of correcting that stark shortcoming, it preferred the excessive use of force. The Security Council had remained unable to bring about Israel’s compliance with its resolutions.
He stressed the need for all parties in the Middle East to commit to the Quartet communiqué issued in New York. He supported the thoughts and positive vision in the statement of United States President George Bush about the creation of a Palestinian State, and confirmed Jordan’s commitment to the concept of land for peace. He called on the Israeli people to work towards peace, realizing that protracted conflict and the high civilian toll on both sides would not bring about the desired result. The political option was the only genuine solution to end the conflict. His Government called on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility with respect to acts of aggression against the Palestinian people.
JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said the Israeli defence forces had added yet another link to the chain of excessive use of force against the Palestinian people. An attack by a warplane against the apartment building had resulted in civilian deaths. In that connection, he could not but recall the Fourth Geneva Convention, which provided for protection of civilians in war. His country was opposed to the disproportionate use of force, which made it difficult to differentiate between civilian and military targets. Such acts could only lead to a deterioration of the situation in the area.
It was significant that acts by Israeli occupation forces followed recent international efforts to improve the situation in the area. He called on the Council to rise to its mandated responsibilities, because the events in the occupied Arab land would have negative repercussions on international peace and security. The Council should provide protection to the civilian Palestinian people whose only wish was to live in peace and security.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said there could be no justification for the missile attack carried out by the Israeli Air Force in a residential area in Gaza. The European Union and the international community at large had consistently rejected the Israeli method of extrajudicial killings. Neither that nor any other actions, which caused indiscriminate civilian casualties, would bring security to the Israeli public. Military and violent actions only served to breed more hatred and undermined attempts by the parties and the international community to bring about reconciliation and a negotiated end to the conflict.
Only last week the Quartet had met in New York, she continued. The meeting had confirmed the Quartet’s role as a key coordination forum for international efforts to bring about a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East crisis. Subsequent discussions of the Quartet with Ministers from Jordan and Egypt had contributed to ensuring close coordination between the Quartet and key players among the Arab States.
The Quartet had agreed on important elements for settlement of the Middle East crisis, she said. The European Union had stressed, in particular, the need for parallel progress on political, economic and security issues, for immediate improvement in the humanitarian and social situation, the holding of free and fair elections and the convening of an international ministerial meeting at the appropriate time. It also underlined the necessity of drawing up a road map towards the goal of achieving a final Israeli/Palestinian settlement within three years, with two States living side by side in peace and security. The European Union felt that current efforts to reform the Palestinian Authority were key in preparing it for statehood and could -- if Israel took steps to allow reform efforts to go ahead -- play an important confidence-building role, paving the way for resumption of political negotiations.
MOHAMMAD H. FADAIFARD (Iran) said that in pursuit of its racist and aggressive policy against defenceless Palestinians, the Israeli regime had, once again, reacted disproportionately, striking against a residential area. It was totally unbelievable that those who had planned the action did not know about the presence of civilians in the targeted area. The action was clearly a war crime, and the international community should react accordingly. Israel was trying to provoke the Palestinians, and its latest actions should be seen from that perspective.
There should be no doubt that targeting residential areas and extrajudicial killings of Palestinians were flagrant violations on international humanitarian law. Such acts amounted to organized terrorism on behalf of the Israeli regime, and the international community should not turn a blind eye to it. There should be no doubt that occupation lay at the centre of the instability in the Middle East. The shocking events of the last two years had stressed the fact that without addressing the root causes of the conflict, it was impossible to resolve it.
He rejected the contention that Israeli aggression had been undertaken in self-defence and said he was concerned about the atrocities committed by the Israeli armed forces. The latest act of aggression would only exacerbate the crisis, unless the international community intervened to stop it. Those responsible for acts of aggression should be brought to justice, and the Council should shoulder its primary responsibility for international peace and security by putting an end to the aggression. However, the threat of the use of veto had prevented the Council from carrying out its responsibilities. Undoubtedly, the inaction of the Council was encouraging Israel. Recent events had further demonstrated the need for an international intervention, protection and observer force to be established by the Council in order to stop the atrocities at the hands of the Israelis.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said the Israeli attack on Gaza had been an act of terrorism, not the least because it was planned and perpetrated by a so-called democratic Government. Violence bred violence, and State terrorism inevitably bred terrorism. The Security Council must take strong action against such acts of unbridled violence. No State should be allowed to entertain the expectation that it enjoyed immunity -- that it could perpetrate violations of international humanitarian law with impunity, merely because it justified those acts as being aimed against so-called terrorists.
Over the past several months, the fruits of decades of peace endeavours had been trampled by unbridled Israeli violence, collective punishment and the slaughter of innocents. The current brutal and ill-timed attack threatened the high-level diplomacy which had been resumed so recently to build peace n the Middle East. The international community must not allow that brutal act to prevent the realization of a just and durable peace in the Middle East. The Security Council must continue to call for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from the territories re-occupied in recent weeks and for a durable solution on the basis of the principle of land for peace.
YAHYA MAHMASSANI, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States to the United Nations, said that at midnight, when people were going to bed, on Mr. Sharon’s instructions, a bomb had been dropped on a residential area. What happened in Gaza was a crime committed by State terrorists. That action took place at the time when measures were being taken to cool the situation and resume the peace process. That made it clear that Israel was seeking to erode any attempts to reach a comprehensive solution in the area.
The condemnation of the Israeli practices was not enough, he continued, particularly in view of the fact that Israel continued them, threatening the whole area. The Council should act promptly and decisively. The Secretary-General of the League of Arab States had stressed that Israeli actions were dangerous to the efforts of the Quartet and the Arab nations, which were seeking to reach peace. The actions of Israel were a threat to international peace and security and a violation of the norms of international legitimacy.
Arabs had expressed their readiness to establish normal relations with Israel, if it withdrew its forces from the occupied territories, he said. Israel, however, had rejected Arab peaceful initiatives. Today, it was necessary to send a clear message to that country that violence would not lead to security in the region. Return to the borders of 1967 was one of important conditions for peace. The Palestinians should know that they were not alone, that peace remained a goal of the United Nations.
ABDUL MUNIM AL-KADHE (Iraq) said he was perplexed at the negative attitude taken by the Security Council with respect to requests from the Arab Group to take up terrorist acts by Israel that were clearly a threat to international peace and security. He knew why the Council had taken that unfair approach, and why it had double standards in that respect. Everyone knew that related to a kind of policy followed by the United States, which indulgently treated the Zionist entity like a spoiled child. The spoiled child had been encouraged to continue its terrorist activities, to tame the Palestinian people and force them to put up with the shameful act of submission.
Everyone had witnessed the crime by the Zionist military power in Gaza on the direct order of war criminal Sharon, designed to cause the highest number of civilian casualties, he continued. There were over 190 dead and wounded, including a large number of women and children. Did the Palestinian people not have the right to protect themselves through any means against these barbarous acts? Palestinian suicide bombings were a legitimate right, a way of achieving emancipation from the Zionist military machine.
The United States was the paramount military Power in the world today, he said, and it had a responsibility to fight terrorism, anarchy and war. It also had a responsibility with respect to international law and a historic duty regarding all legal situations and facts. The United States was using its power in the media and as a military machine for its own ends and the Zionists’ narrow ends. The Zionist movement was interested only in its own aims and had no consideration for other people. It was prospering under conditions of terrorism and instability.
The United States was using international terrorism to have the Security Council adopt resolutions in the United States’ own interests under the pretext of preserving international peace and security. Legitimate actions were being described as terrorist acts. That was what was happening today in Palestine. The United States Government and the Zionist entity were manipulating the facts. Acts of aggression by certain people were legitimized under the pretence of self-defence. Many rules from international humanitarian law were being questioned and an attempt was being made to create new ones.
YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) said that his Government deplored the Israeli air strike on 23 July, which had resulted in the loss of many civilian lives, including children. The latest attack had intensified hatred of the Palestinian people for Israel and had exacerbated the situation. It was particularly disturbing that the action had taken place at the time when efforts were under way to resolve the crisis in the area and break the vicious cycle of violence. He urged both parties, and Israel in particular, to exercise maximum self-restraint.
The tragic events this week had underscored the urgent need to push the peace process forward in order to realize the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security, as affirmed by Council resolution 1397. It was essential that the two parties, with the support and assistance of the international community, made very possible effort to achieve that goal. The Government of Japan, for its part, was prepared to play an active role in the process, including the new international task force on Palestinian reform.
OMER BASHIR MOHAMED MANIS (Sudan) said that condemnation of the Israeli military action on Gaza City had come from all over the world. That was a sincere reflection of the international community, whose patience with Israel was running thin. Such collective condemnation must be coupled with effective and robust actions that would deter Israeli aggression and protect innocent civilians.
Israel’s contempt for international law was indeed a precedent, an exception that caused one to wonder. The sense of protection and immunity Israel felt made it appear more flagrant when it committed more outrageous acts. It was time an initiative was taken to put an end to that attitude. He urged the Council to respond with whatever international law called upon on it to do in taking the necessary measures to uphold justice and make the aggressor accountable.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) condemned the ruthless attack in Gaza Strip by Israel this week. The well-planned attack using a fighter aircraft on a heavily populated residential area could not be justified, no matter how hard Israel tried. Indeed, initially, Mr. Sharon had proudly characterized the attack as "one of our major successes". The killing and maiming of so many civilians in the Gaza attack was the latest of the many atrocities committed by Israel against Palestine. It made a mockery of Israel’s sincerity and commitment to the search for peace in the region. That act, directed at achieving total security of Israel while maintaining its occupation and extending its settlements, had tarnished Israel’s image even further.
Violence begot violence, he continued. Israel’s use of massive force was illegal, immoral and a violation of international humanitarian law. It jeopardized the efforts of the Quartet and the international community on the whole. There was no sense of proportionality in Israel’s actions, which spoke for themselves, giving a hollow sound to its peace-loving claims. He hoped the Council would condemn that atrocity and call on Israel to observe the norms of international law. He reiterated his earlier proposal for dispatch of an international force to the area. If that proposal had been acted upon, many lives would have been saved on both sides.
It was time for the Council to ensure implementation of its own resolutions, he said. He welcomed the efforts of the Quartet and called upon it to intensify its work, led by the vision of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace within three years. All measures should be carried out equally by both sides, however. The burden should not be heavier on one side than the other.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba), Acting Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the Council had not acted firmly regarding the realization of two States that could live in peace with recognized borders. The three-year timetable for the creation of a Palestinian State gave no details of steps leading to that goal. It also placed the greatest emphasis on the party with the fewest resources -- Palestine -- while placing no emphasis on Israel. A concrete plan for implementing the two-State division remained elusive.
Israel continued to reoccupy most West Bank towns, he continued. In addition, and out of disrespect for humanitarian law, they had destroyed the homes of suspected Palestinian militants. If that was not enough, in a hideous display of State terrorism, Israel had attacked Gaza City, killing and injuring mainly women and children. All those acts were unacceptable and must be condemned by the international community, particularly the Security Council.
He urged the Council to assume full responsibility in the maintenance of peace and security. There must be a concrete plan for the creation of two States, and the outline of a solution that would restore to the Palestinian people their inalienable rights. History would pass a harsh judgement on the international community, if it continued to shy away from its responsibilities.
DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa) said the attack of the Israeli military on a residential area deserved strong condemnation by the Council. It could only be described as reckless and utterly inexcusable. No explanation could justify the use of the most destructive military weaponry, especially if the target was the single Palestinian. Reminding the Council that in its resolution 1402 of 30 March it had called for the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian cities, he said that, instead, Israel had reoccupied Palestinian cities and enforced severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of persons and goods, thereby further aggravating the humanitarian crisis in Palestine.
Particularly frustrating was the timing of the attack, he continued, which came at a time when Israeli and Palestinian Ministers had initiated a dialogue around concrete measures to de-escalate the security situation. He reiterated his delegation’s support for the efforts of the Quartet and other interested parties in building an international consensus to reach a two-State solution and put an end to the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and settlement activities there, among other things. The work of the Quartet had been seriously undermined by the violence. The fact that Israel was also allowed to ignore Council resolutions could not be helpful.
He concluded that there could be no peace in the Middle East as long as the Palestinian people did not have a State of their own with East Jerusalem as its capital. The only solution lay in negotiations and not violence.
MOHAMMAD ABULHASAN (Kuwait) said it was deplorable that flagrant acts violating international humanitarian law committed by Israel against the Palestinian people had continued. Israel was carrying out a programmed policy of destroying the infrastructure in the occupied territory under the pretext of preserving its security and combating terrorism. Israel had continued its inhuman practices and resorted to blind violence against unarmed civilians. It had continued to violate international humanitarian law, even after the entry into force of the International Criminal Court earlier this month.
The fact that Israel was making a mockery of the international community should be taken up by the Court, he said. Israel’s aim was to destroy international efforts aimed at resolving the situation in the Middle East. He fully supported the claims of the Palestinian people and agreed that the Council should shoulder its responsibilities. It should urge Israel to follow Council resolutions, lift its blockade on Palestinian locations and lift its restrictions on Palestinian leaders.
V.K. NAMBIAR (India) said the attack launched by Israel late Monday in the Gaza strip had resulted in the loss of a large number of precious human lives. The Secretary-General, in his recent statement, had pointed out that Israel had "a legal and moral responsibility to take all measures to avoid the loss of innocent lives; it clearly failed to do so in using a missile against an apartment building".
He said that, although Israel had stated that it was a mistake, he could not but strongly deplore such acts of unwarranted violence and indiscriminate killings at a time when serious efforts were under way to broker a ceasefire between the parties. He joined other members of the international community who had called upon Israel to act in accordance with international humanitarian law. He also joined the Arab Group members in requesting the Council to call for necessary measures to put an end to the current tragic situation.
It was time for the international community to act proactively to reduce the suffering and deprivation faced by the Palestinians, he said. He supported the Secretary-General’s call for the parties to fully respect their international obligations and facilitate the work of the United Nations and other agencies. With every passing day, the world seemed to be moving away from the vision of Israel and Palestine living peacefully as two States, side by side, within secure and recognized boundaries. He called for an immediate end to violence and the resumption of the dialogue. His Government attached great importance to the ongoing efforts of the Quartet and the initiative of Saudi Arabia endorsed by the Arab League Summit at Beirut, aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
MOCHAMAD SLAMET HIDAYAT (Indonesia) said it was the legal and moral responsibility of Israel to take measures to avoid the loss of civilian lives. Loss of life was the inevitable result of using a missile in an indiscriminate assault against a civilian facility. Each of Israel's attacks had further exacerbated the grave humanitarian problems of the Palestinian people, and the latest was certain to make things much worse.
He called on Israel not to be blinded by its military might. There could be no military resolution to the situation. Only the realization of two States, Palestine and Israel living side by side within secure, international recognized borders, could end the perpetual violence in the occupied territories.
Speaking in his national capacity, Mr. RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said that given the seriousness of the situation, Cuba could not fail to state its national position on the matter. The massacre of civilians, most of them children, in the Gaza Strip deserved the strongest condemnation. Mr. Sharon’s initial praise of his country’s actions deserved no comment.
He said the United States must immediately suspend its financial support to Israel’s military activities. This should involve a stop to providing it with military equipment, including the F-16 planes similar to the one used in this week’s attack in Palestine. To a large extent, the current situation in the area was the result of arbitrary use of power by one of the Council’s permanent members. Using a threat of the use of veto, the United States carried a lot of responsibility for the situation in the Middle East. It was unacceptable that the Council continued to turn its back on the situation in Palestine. It should shoulder its responsibility and act immediately.
Mr. AL-SAID (Yemen) said the Israeli attack on Gaza was a clear and flagrant violation of international law, since it took place in a residential area and had led to massive human casualties. Sharon was accustomed to committing horrible acts whenever there were signs of agreement in the peace process. He never wanted to reach a peaceful settlement because that meant Israel would have to withdraw from Palestinian territories. His policy became clear when he said that Gaza had been one of the most successful operations Israel had ever undertaken.
Yemen supported any peace process based on justice and international law, he said. He called on the Security Council to oblige Israel to remove its forces from occupied territories; send forces to protect the Palestinians from Israeli forces; and to respect the will of the international community and human rights conventions. Peace could not come through the violence that was being pursued by Israeli forces. It could only be realized through respect for concluded agreements and implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions. Peace could never come without the establishment of a separate Palestinian State.
* *** *