Al Jazeera & United Nations News Center – 2008-03-02 21:37:21
UNITED NTIONS (March 2, 2008) — Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has condemned Israel for using “excessive” force in the Gaza Strip and demanded a halt to its offensive after troops killed at least 100 people over five days — more than 60 on Saturday alone.
At least a third of those killed have been children, according to medical sources in Gaza.
Addressing an emergency session of the security council in New York on Sunday, Ban also called on Palestinian fighters to stop firing rockets into Israel. Ban said: “While recognising Israel’s right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children … I call on Israel to cease such attacks. I condemn Palestinian rocket attacks and call for the immediate cessation of such acts of terrorism.”
In protest against the Israeli offensive, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has formally suspended all contacts with Israel.
“The negotiations are suspended, as are all contacts on all levels, because in light of the Israeli aggression such communication has no meaning,” Nabil Abu Rudeina, an Abbas spokesman, said in a statement.
However, there is no sign that the Israeli government is ready to call off an offensive that took troops deeper into Gaza on Saturday and in larger numbers than at any time since Israel ended a military occupation of Gaza in 2005.
West Bank Clashes
On Sunday, fresh Israeli strikes killed three Palestinians in northern Gaza. Earlier, witnesses said Israeli aircraft attacked the office of Ismail Haniya, the ousted Palestinian prime minister, in Gaza City.
As Gazans mourned the dead, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops erupted in the Shufat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem, Hebron, and Belin as well as other areas across the West Bank.
Hundreds of West Bank residents, holding Hamas and Fatah flags, also staged rallies and appealed for national unity.
In a related development, Egypt has agreed to open the Rafah border crossing to let injured Palestinians receive medical treatment, Al Jazeera’s correspondent reported.
Daniel Carmon, a senior Israeli diplomat, dismissed suggestions Israel was guilty of war crimes. “Hamas bears sole responsibility for the violence,” he told the security council.
Jacky Rowland, reporting from Gaza, said that Hamas officials were being targeted in the ongoing Israeli operations.
She said: “Police officers have been told to leave their posts, as there is mounting speculation that police stations are now targeted by the Israeli military.”
“Also, Haniya appeared on Friday – the first time he was seen in public for quite a while, adding to the possibility that Hamas officials are avoiding public appearances.”
Al Jazeera’s John Terret, reporting from New York, said that members of the UN security council discussed a draft resolution regarding the conflict in Gaza.
Analysis: Saving the Palestinian Sinking Boat
He said: “The Libyan delegation representing the Palestinians have put forward a draft, and it is now subject to debate from the members.”
But diplomats have reportedly said that the security council was unlikely to adopt a Libyan resolution that condemns Israel’s killing of civilians, but makes no mention of Palestinian rocket fire.
Western diplomats say the Libyan resolution would not pass unless it was amended to condemn the Palestinian rocket attacks and dropped language suggesting Israel was guilty of terrorism.
The blooshed in Gaza jeopardises US-backed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Rana el-Hindi from Save the Children, speaking from inside the Gaza Strip, told Al Jazeera that children were suffering greatly from the Israeli bombardment.
“In the last three days at least 19 children have been killed … it’s a real concern for all organisations here,” she said.
“Most of the time, when we go into the field and talk to the children about their fears and concerns, they are always afraid of a new [Israeli] invasion to the Gaza Strip – and obviously the current situation is just … what they fear.”
She said the number of children being hospitalised was increasing “day after day”.
Al Jazeera’s Nour Odeh on the situation in Gaza
Eissam Younis, director of the Al Mizan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli army was “intentionally and systematically targeting civilians” and criticised world powers for their muted response. “Israel puts itself above the law because the international community is always silent,” he said.
The main Israeli operation began before dawn on Saturday. Israeli tanks, supported by helicopters, pushed into the town and refugee camp of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip and continued the assault throughout the day.
More than 150 people were wounded in the operation, Dr Muawiya Hassanein, the head of Gaza’s emergency services, said.
At least 16 of the Palestinians killed were fighters – including 13 from Hamas, two from Islamic Jihad and one from the Popular Resistance Committees.
Rockets from Gaza Have Hit Israeli Towns
near the Gaza Border
Witnesses said many of the deaths in Jabaliya occurred as a result of gun battles between Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers.
Tariq Dardouna, a Palestinian resident trapped in his house in east Jabaliya, told Al Jazeera that Israeli forces were targeting civilians.
“The Israeli army opens fire at everything in our area, including children and houses. There are injured children bleeding inside their houses,” Dardouna said.
Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, has said that Israel needed to prepare for a possible escalation of military action in the Gaza Strip. “We will continue our action with all our strength and we need to prepare for escalation, because a broad ground operation is real and tangible,” he said.
One aim of any large-scale incursion into Gaza would be to “weaken the Hamas rule … in the right circumstances even bring it down,” he said.
In Israel, six people were wounded, one of them seriously, by long-range rockets fired from the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the Israeli army said.
Fighters in Gaza fired over 40 rockets and mortars at southern Israel. Eight of the missiles were long-range rockets that travelled as far as the seaside Israeli town of Ashkelon, some 11km north of the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian fighters have launched frequent volleys of rockets and mortars at Israeli communities near the Gaza border, though the missile attacks rarely cause injuries.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Security Council, Secretary-General
Alarmed by Deadly Violence in Middle East
UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon
UNITED NATIONS (February 29, 2008) — The Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have condemned the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, which has claimed dozens of civilian lives in recent days.
Council members met in emergency session late last night and early today to discuss the situation in the Middle East, where the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have launched air and land attacks on targets in Gaza and Palestinian militants have fired dozens of rockets at targets in southern Israel, including the city of Ashkelon.
The United Nations estimates that at least 59 Palestinians – including 39 civilians – were killed yesterday in Gaza, and hundreds more injured, while two Israeli soldiers are reported to have been killed in the fighting and an Israeli civilian was killed in Sderot following a rocket attack and at least five other civilians were injured in Ashkelon.
Following the meeting, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, which currently holds the monthly rotating presidency of the Council, today read out a summary of the discussions that was agreed to by all 15 members of the panel.
Voicing deep concern about the loss of civilian life and the escalation of violence in the region, Council members called on all sides to respect their obligations under international law and to immediately cease all acts of violence.
“These acts must not be allowed to deter the political process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, aimed at establishing two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security,” Mr. Churkin said.
Earlier, Mr. Ban told the Council meeting that he has contacted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and League of Arab States Secretary-General Amr Moussa as part of UN efforts to push for a calming of the violence.
UN humanitarian agencies operating on the ground, especially the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), are also continuing their efforts to help people in distress.
Mr. Ban condemned and urged an end to the Palestinian rocket attacks, which he noted “serve no purpose, endanger Israeli civilians, and bring misery to the Palestinian people.”
The Secretary-General also said that while Israel has a right to defend itself, “I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children. I call on Israel to cease such attacks. Israel must fully comply with international humanitarian law and exercise the utmost restraint. Incidents in which civilians have been killed or injured must be investigated and accountability must be ensured.”
All schools operated by UNRWA in Gaza have been closed and many families are trapped inside their homes because of the violence, and Mr. Ban called on Israel to facilitate full access to hospitals and medical centres for the injured.
The Secretary-General urged all parties to “step back from the brink of even deeper and more deadly clashes.”
In addition, he voiced extreme concern about the effect they are having on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation process, and he called on members of the international community and other stakeholders to use their influence on the parties to both stop the violence and allow humanitarian relief to flow.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purpsoes.