UN General Assembly set to slam Israeli offensive in Gaza Strip

Date: 11-17-06

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - The UN General Assembly was set to adopt an Arab-sponsored resolution slamming the Israeli killing of 19 Palestinians in the Gaza town of Beit Hanun, only days after the United States vetoed a similar text in the Security Council.

The 192-member assembly gathered in an emergency special session to take up a draft introduced by Qatar after Arab states accused the 15-member UN Security Council of failing to shoulder its responsibility by not condemning Israel's military onslaught in Gaza.

Saturday, the United States vetoed a similar draft, also introduced by Qatar on behalf of Arab states, that would have condemned Israel's deadly attack in the Gaza Strip, calling the text "unbalanced" and "biased."

Ten of the council's 15 members voted in favor of the text, introduced by Qatar on behalf of Arab member states, and four -- Britain, Denmark, Japan and Slovakia -- abstained.

Several speakers took the floor Friday to denounce the Israeli military onslaught in Gaza.

The text expected to be overwhelmingly endorsed by the General Assembly would condemn the Israeli killing of 19 Palestinians, mainly children and women, in Beit Hanun last week, as well as Palestinian rocket firing into Israel.

The draft would ask the UN secretary general to set up a fact-finding mission to probe the Beit Hanun incident, for which Israel has expressed regret, and to report back to the General Assembly within 30 days.

It would also call on the Jewish state "to immediately cease its military assaults against the Palestinian civilian population in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to immediately withdraw its forces from within the Gaza Strip."

The text would also appeal to the Palestinian Authority to take immediate action to bring an end to violence, including the firing of rockets on Israeli territory.

Qatar's UN Ambassador Nasser Abdulaziz al-Nasser described his draft as "fair and balanced" and accused Israel of a "clear and flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war."

But his Israeli counterpart Dan Gillerman blamed the ruling Palestinian Hamas movement for the violence by failing to stop rocket attacks against Israel and by refusing to recognize the Jewish state.

"This bloodshed can stop in one second. If terrorism stops, there will not be one single victim, Israeli or Palestinian," Gillerman said. "The choice is yours. End the violence and Israel will never have to act in self-defense."

In remarks prepared for delivery, US Ambassador John Bolton said the Qatari draft "fails to take a realistic, fair and constructive approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" and "serves only to exacerbate tensions by serving the interests of elements hostile to Israel's inalienable and recognized right to exist."

But Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour took the United States to task for its veto, the second since July, of last week's Security Council resolution on the Gaza violence.

"The repeated use of the veto (by the United States) sends the wrong message to Israel, the occupying power, that it is above international law and that it can continue to commit crimes and acts of outright aggression with impunity," Mansour added.

And speaking in his capacity as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement Coordinating Bureau, Cuba's UN Ambassador Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz said "the events in Beit Hanun are unfortunately just another proof of what the Palestinian people have been suffering for too many years, as a result of the illegal occupation of their territory by Israel, the occupying power."


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