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Security Council meets on killing of Hamas leader

Security Council meets on killing of Hamas leader Yassin

Amid rising tensions in the Middle East following Monday's assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza, the Security Council held an open meeting today with nearly 40 speakers scheduled to take part in the debate.

Speaking at the outset of the session, which was convened at the request of Palestine and the Arab Group of States, the Permanent Observer of Palestine, Nasser al-Kidwa, described the killing of Sheikh Yassin as a "war crime," and held the occupying power and the Israeli leadership legally and politically responsible for committing that crime, as well as for the consequences that it entailed.

On the other hand, Mr. al-Kidwa said he valued the wide international condemnation of the crime and the decisive calls made to Israel to refrain from perpetuating other extra-judicial killings and abide by international humanitarian law. He also valued the readiness and desire of the majority of Council members to take a clear position on what had happened, but regretfully it was not possible for the 15-member body to take an urgent position in the form of a presidential statement.

"We hope that the Council will be able, after taking more time to consider this," to adopt a draft resolution submitted by the Arab Group of States, he added. "There is no doubt that this is a matter of the utmost importance."

Israel, Mr. al-Kidwa said, was an outlaw State, regularly violating the provisions of the UN Charter, international law and international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and Security Council resolutions. Israel had completely destroyed the life of the Palestinian people and deprived them of their rights, and its policies were not an attempt to counter terrorism but a major reason for the terrorism in the Middle East and beyond.

Ambassador Dan Gillerman of Israel told the Council that the Palestinian leadership had proved "beyond any doubt" that it had no intention of taking a single measure to fight terrorism, as it was legally and morally obliged to do. It was the basic obligation of the Government of Israel - like any government - to protect the lives of its citizens from the threat of terrorism.

Ambassador Gillerman said the Israeli Government made every effort, under excruciatingly difficult conditions, to minimize harm to civilians. It recognized its responsibilities, but Israel "would not negotiate by day and bury our dead by night." By removing Sheikh Yassin from the international stage, "we send a very strong message to the terrorists: 'When you kill our civilians, you are not immune,'" the Israeli delegate said.

He said the Palestinian leadership had a choice: It could continue to "get into bed with terrorists and tyrants," or it could prove to the world that it was ready to assume responsibilities, not just assume privileges. It could show that it was ready to establish a democratic society that would respect the rights of its people, and the rights of its neighbours, and not another terrorist dictatorship in the heart of the Middle East.

The Security Council also had a choice, Ambassador Gillerman said. It did not have to continue to send a message that put the response to terrorism on trial, instead of terrorism itself. It did not have to pander to initiatives that defended the terrorist rather than his victims. "Which message will you send today, to our region and to the rest of the world?" he asked.

Earlier Tuesday the Council's President, Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France, was asked by reporters why there was no Council statement on the killing. He said consensus was required and despite "difficult" discussions among experts that began yesterday, "it was not possible to reach a consensus."

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