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Security Council discusses killing of Hamas leader


Security Council discusses killing of Hamas leader

Less than a month after several countries in the United Nations Security Council condemned the killing of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the 15-member body met today to discuss the assassination by Israel of his replacement, Abdelaziz Rantissi, over the weekend.

Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Permanent Observer of Palestine, told an open meeting of the Council – during which some 40 speakers were scheduled to take the floor – that Israel continued its reign of terror against Palestinian people, as it had not ended its campaign of death and destruction in the occupied Palestinian territory and continued to carry out the extrajudicial executions of Palestinian leaders and kill, wound and maim defenceless Palestinian civilians in grave breach of international law.

The killing of Dr. Rantissi, as well as two other Palestinian men who had been with him, was the latest in a long series of war crimes committed by the occupying power, Mr. Al-Kidwa said. He added that it was carried out in fulfilment of repeated threats by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israeli Government and military officials to continue targeting Palestinian leaders for assassination in flagrant violation of international law and in complete and total disregard for the condemnation, pleas and demands by the international community for the cessation of such an illegal and barbaric policy.

Without a doubt, Mr. Al-Kidwa said, the recent failure of the Council to condemn the extrajudicial execution of Sheikh Yassin and to take urgent measures to address the deterioration of the situation, due to the veto of one of the Council's permanent members, had further emboldened the Israeli Government to continue carrying out such illegal actions with impunity.

Without concern for reproach and punishment or for the consequences of its actions, Israel continued to behave as a State that was above law, he added. Unable to uphold its duties for the maintenance of international peace and security, the Council had allowed Israel to continue acting beyond the parameters of international law, permitting it to use the most oppressive measures and practices to impose more death and destruction and loss on the Palestinian people under its occupation.

Ambassador Dan Gillerman of Israel said it was with regret that the Council had been compelled to convene again today - on Holocaust Remembrance Day - not to condemn the murder of innocent civilians by organizations such as Hamas, but to denounce the demise of a key architect of those massacres.

Were the current Palestinian leadership a genuine partner in peace, defensive actions would not have been necessary, he said. The Palestinian obligation to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, arrest terrorists, confiscate illegal weapons and stop incitement was an obvious and fundamental and legal imperative as it was a moral one. Under the Road Map, Council resolutions, signed agreements and international law, the Palestinian Authority was required to arrest murders like Dr. Rantissi, not give them protection and safe haven. If there was something "extrajudicial" it was the total refusal of the Palestinian leadership for years to act against terrorism.

Israel was engaged in armed conflict against terrorism of an unparalleled scale, Ambassador Gillerman said. It was not good enough to affirm in theory Israel's right to defend itself in the conflict, but then in practice seek to deny it the right to specifically target those illegal combatants directly responsible. Israel did so in a manner that was both necessary and proportionate, and when no other realistic option of detention or prevention existed. In those circumstances, such actions were wholly consistent with international law.

The targeting of Dr. Rantissi was not merely a necessary defensive act to prevent ongoing and planned attacks against civilians; it was part of the global struggle against terrorism, he said. In line with the Council resolutions, that action made clear that those who harboured terrorists must be held accountable. The Palestinian leadership could not brazenly violate international law by supporting terrorists and then seek to deny Israel the right to protect itself against them, guaranteed under that same law.

Yahya Mahmassani, Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, said Israel was continuing its policy of killing Palestinians with impunity and condemned the most recent act, the execution of the Hamas leader Saturday. Israel’s actions, including the building of a separation wall, threatened peace and security and were undermining the peace process, he said.

The crux of the conflict was the occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories, he said. The policy of using force was getting nowhere but was only worsening the situation in the region. The Council must force Israel to cease its policy of extrajudicial killings and Israel must return to the negotiating table. He stressed the importance of the Arab peace initiative, which was an attempt to end the occupation involving the withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Palestinian territories.

Paul Badji, Chair of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that the targeted assassinations of Palestinians, be they leaders or members of Palestinian organizations, had been condemned on many occasions by the international community. The Committee had firmly condemned all extrajudicial executions and it was with that same energy that it condemned the most recent execution. The Israeli Government, in disregard of international opinion, was continuing its vicious policy. Like all acts of that type, such executions were a clear violation of international law and did not respond to the aspirations of Palestinians or Israelis.

Israel had just, once again, poisoned an already volatile situation by assassinating the leader of Hamas, Mr. Badji said. The Committee, once again, demanded that Israel end the untold suffering of the Palestinian people, and called for the dismantling of the wall of separation, as well as an immediate end to the siege on the Palestinian Authority and its President. He appealed to the Council to express, as had the international community, unequivocal condemnation of the killing and urge both parties to refrain from any action that might aggravate the situation. The Committee also invited the Quartet to apply all its influence on the parties to implement the Road Map, the only viable option to ensure the security of both parties.

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