IN SECURITY COUNCIL DEBATE, MOST SPEAKERS CONDEMN ISRAEL’S ASSASSINATION OF HAMAS LEADER

23 March 2004
SC/8034

IN SECURITY COUNCIL DEBATE, MOST SPEAKERS CONDEMN ISRAEL’S ASSASSINATION OF HAMAS LEADER

23/03/2004
Press ReleaseSC/8034

Security Council                                           

4929th Meeting (PM)                                         

IN SECURITY COUNCIL DEBATE, MOST SPEAKERS CONDEMN

ISRAEL’S ASSASSINATION OF HAMAS LEADER

In an open meeting of the Security Council on the Middle East that went late into this evening, most of the 41 speakers condemned Israel’s assassination yesterday of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and debated the ramifications for peace in the region, with many calling for an unequivocal condemnation of the act by the Security Council.

Israel had committed a new war crime, asserted Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United Nations, at the start of the four-hour meeting.  Israeli gunships had shot three missiles at the spiritual leader of the Hamas movement after he had finished a prayer at the mosque near his home, killing him and six other Palestinians.  Afterwards, the Israeli Prime Minister indicated that he had personally supervised that “mad and brutal assassination” and that such a policy would continue, the Permanent Observer said.

Calling Israel an “outlaw State”, he said that Israel’s policies were not an attempt to counter terrorism, but a major reason for the terrorism in the Middle East and beyond.  The assassination would not service counter-terrorism efforts.  The Sharon Government would like to continue such escalation because it wanted to bury the Road Map, said the Permanent Observer, who called on the Council to provide the necessary response to the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Referring to the Sheikh as a “godfather of terrorism,” Israel’s representative said his country would not negotiate by day and bury its dead by night.  Wielding a list of 187 pages documenting the “horrific scope and extent” of Hamas terrorism, he said that 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 its responsibilities by establishing a democratic society that respected the rights of its people and its neighbours, and by not being another terrorist dictatorship in the heart of the Middle East.

He added that the Security Council had a choice, too.  It did not have to continue to send a message that put the response to terrorism, instead of terrorism itself, on trial.  It did not have to pander to initiatives that defended the terrorist rather than his victims.  Which message would it send today to the Middle East region and to the rest of the world? he wondered.  In the wake of Israel’s own anguish, its efforts to elicit some response from the Council had not been met with even a presidential statement.

The United States’ representative asserted that, while discussing the killing of Sheikh Yassin, it was important to also keep in mind that he was the leader of a terrorist organization, which had proudly taken credit for attacks on innocent civilians, including last week’s attack in Ashdod.  Sheikh Yassin was opposed to the existence of the State of Israel and actively sought to undermine a two-State solution in the Middle East.  The Council should not, and the United States would not, support initiatives which ignored that reality.  Besides, one-sided action by the Council could only detract from the efforts of the Quartet for a resumption of the peace process.

        Having requested the meeting, the Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, Yahya Mahmassani, strongly condemned that heinous crime, indicating that whenever peace was in sight in the Middle East, Israel committed an act of aggression that erode any glimpse of hope.  The Security Council’s failure to put an end to such acts was totally unjustifiable.  He called on that body to adopt a decisive position that would make Israel commit to retracting its policy of occupation, give up the military option and resume negotiations, leading to the establishment of peace and security.

Expressing outrage at the assassination by the Israeli army of a spiritual leader and political icon, many of the member States of the Arab League suggested that the planning and implementation by Israel of that crime was a stark example of State terror and ultimate proof of the extent to which Israel had gone unchecked in its violation of international law and international humanitarian law.  Several speakers warned that the assassination would foment the violence that had engulfed the occupied Palestinian territories, dragging the region into further imbalance and killing any prospects for peace.

Calling the killing a “cold-blooded” plan of the Israeli Government, the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Paul Badji, said that in the midst of the erosion of trust between the two sides, Israel had exacerbated an already volatile situation.  The Committee condemned extrajudicial executions, deadly attacks against innocent Palestinians and all acts that not only poisoned the political climate, but pushed back the chance of attaining a peaceful solution of the conflict.

Statements were also made by the following Council members:  Benin, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Chile, Angola, Russian Federation, China, Philippines, Spain, Brazil, Algeria, Romania, Germany, and France.

Representatives of the following Governments also spoke:  Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Qatar, Japan, Bahrain, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Jordan, Tunisia, Indonesia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Cuba, Lebanon, South Africa, Iran, Norway, Morocco, Malaysia, and the Sudan.

The meeting began at 5:20 p.m. and was adjourned at 9:01 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

Statements

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, said that, on 22 March, Israel had committed a new war crime by assassinating Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.  Israeli helicopter gunships shot three missiles at the spiritual leader of Hamas near his home, killing him and six other Palestinians.  After that, Prime Minister Sharon made statements indicating that he personally supervised that “mad and brutal” assassination and that that policy would continue.

He said he strongly condemned the Israeli 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 the crime entailed. 

On the other hand, he valued the wide international condemnation of the crime and the decisive calls made to Israel to refrain from perpetuating other extrajudicial killings and abide by international humanitarian law.  He also valued the readiness and desire of the majority of the members of the Council to take a clear position vis-à-vis what had happened on 22 March.  Regretfully, taking an urgent position in the form of a presidential statement was not possible.  He hoped the Council would be able to adopt the draft resolution before it, submitted by the Arab Group.  It was a matter of the utmost importance.

Israel, he said, was an outlaw State.  It regularly violated the provisions of the United Nations Charter, international law and international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and Security Council resolutions.  It even violated the conventions it had signed.  It had occupied Palestinian territory for more than 36 years and continued to insist on the illegal settlement of that territory.  Israel had completely destroyed the life of the Palestinian people and deprived them of their rights.

Israel’s policies were not an attempt to counter terrorism, but a major reason for the terrorism in the Middle East and beyond, he said. The assassination of Yassin was not a service for counter-terrorism efforts.  The Sharon Government would like to continue such escalation.  Israel believed the continuation of violence would exempt it from implementing its obligations under the Road Map.  The Sharon Government did not want the Road Map and wanted to work to bury it.

Recently, Prime Minister Sharon had announced his decision regarding unilateral disengagement in Gaza.  By nature, a unilateral step could not be part of the Road Map and, by nature, disengagement could not be part of a negotiated withdrawal.  Mr. Sharon would not voluntarily do something for the interests of the Palestinian people and the interests of peace.  If Mr. Sharon withdrew from Gaza, it was to be a punishment for the Palestinians, as he wanted Gaza to be a huge prison.  What was strange that the Israeli Government wanted something in return from some parties.  Even stranger, some parties which had presented the Road Map were considering giving Israel something for that step.  He also pointed out that Israel was continuing to build the wall even after the matter had been presented to the International Court Justice.  He called on the Council to take the necessary action regarding the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

DAN GILLERMAN (Israel) said that in three and one-half years of Palestinian terrorist attacks that had murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli civilians and wounded thousands more, the Security Council had not met even once to express condemnation of a single attack.  Not one resolution or presidential statement had been adopted to specifically denounce the deliberate massacre of innocent civilians.  Two months ago, 11 Israeli citizens were murdered in a horrific homicide bomb attack on a bus in central Jerusalem on 29 January.  In the wake of Israel’s anguish, its efforts to elicit some response from the Council had not been met with even a presidential statement.

Yet today, he said, following a sad and familiar pattern, the Council convened, not to condemn the terrorism or to honour the memory of the hundreds murdered by it, but to come to the defence of one of its prime perpetrators, “a godfather of terrorism”.  That was not a message of which the Council could be proud.  Frankly, that was an outrage.  As long as the response to terrorism appeared to be more serious than the terrorism itself, there would only be more of it.

To give the peace process a chance, the kind of terror that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin directed and perpetrated, and which he swore to continue relentlessly, could not be appeased or assuaged, it must be defeated, he insisted.  It must be defeated, not just for Israel’s sake, but also for the sake of the whole free world.  Although the Council had never met to discuss the attacks for which Sheikh Yassin was responsible, the list was “gruesome and shocking”.

He said that to characterize Sheikh Yassin as a “spiritual leader” was to attempt to characterize Osama bin Laden as a Mother Therese.  Underneath his supposed clerical garb, Sheikh Yassin was a “true pioneer in the ruthless murder of innocents”.  Under his direct leadership, inspiration and instruction, Hamas -– an organization recognized around the world for its brutal terrorism -– had perpetrated more than 425 attacks that had killed 377 Israelis and wounded 2,076 in less than three and one-half years of violence. 

Sheik Yassin had stood at the head of a command and control structure dedicated to the destruction of Israel, the Ambassador said.  If Sheikh Yassin was not an “arch-terrorist”, there was no such thing.  The Ambassador had in his hands 187 pages documenting the horrific scope and extent of Hamas terrorism, which had wreaked unspeakable anguish on the lives of the citizens of Israel.  Time and again, while Israeli mothers were in excruciating pain, burying their babies and mourning their husbands, Sheikh Yassin’s gloating face appeared on every TV screen, exalting the murderers as martyrs. 

After providing a “short list” of the Sheikh’s “bloody and gruesome” record, Mr. Gillerman said the Sheikh’s hands were steeped in the blood of the innocent.  That was the man that the Council was being asked to defend.  His victims had been denied the Council’s attention.  Would it now give that attention to the person who bore direct responsibility for their murder? he asked.

He said 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.  That mass murderer, Sheikh Yassin, had lived and operated for years, not just in freedom, but under the protective authority and safe haven of the Palestinian Authority, in violation of the most basic international norms.  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. 

The Israeli Government made every effort, under excruciatingly difficult conditions, to minimize harm to civilians, he said.  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, it sent a very strong message to the terrorists:  when they killed Israeli civilians, they were not immune.

He said that 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.  Israel was ready, as always, to be a partner to such a leadership, so that a political solution could be found based on the implementation of the Road Map.

The Security Council had a choice, too, he 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 would it send today, to the Middle East region and to the rest of the world? he asked.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said Israel had committed a grave crime by killing the elderly Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and six other Palestinians.  Israel’s representative today was boasting of that act.  It was a terrorist act that should be condemned.  By assassinating Sheikh Yassin, Israel had decided to escalate acts of violence.  It was clear that committing that brutal crime would put the whole region in a “boiling cauldron”.  The resulting anger and fury would translate into an escalation of further acts of violence.

The peace process, which was on its last breath, could be buried forever, he said.  The Council had been unable to take any action, letting Israel feel it was not responsible for its actions.  He condemned the assassination of Sheikh Yassin.  It was the duty of the Council to condemn such a brutal crime.  The Council could not continue to be silent, and must force Israel to put an end to such illegal practices and respect the principles of international humanitarian law.  In addition, the Quartet should move quickly before the whole region moved into a spiral of violence that could not be stopped.

EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said that the Foreign Ministers of the European Union had condemned the extrajudicial killing of the Sheikh, and stated that it had repeatedly condemned the terrorist atrocities conducted by Hamas.  It recognized Israel’s right to protect its citizens under international law against terrorist attacks.  It was not entitled, however, to carry out extrajudicial killings.  The United Kingdom had condemned the killings. 

He said everyone understood that Israel needed to defend itself, and it was fully entitled to do that against terrorism, but it was not entitled to go into that kind of unlawful killing.  That was unacceptable, unjust and very unlikely to achieve its objectives.  The United Kingdom had repeatedly and consistently condemned the many terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens, including those perpetrated by Hamas, among others.  Terrorists inflicted huge suffering and loss.  Their actions undermined the Palestinian cause.  No cause justified resorting to terrorism, nor could it exonerate the terrorist.

Events everyday had underlined that there was no military solution to the Middle East situation, he said.  Neither party would achieve its aims through violence.  He urged both parties to exercise restraint and stop escalating the violence.  The Road Map remained the right route to a just and peaceful settlement.  Both sides had so far failed to meet their obligations in that regard.  The Council’s focus should be to get them back on path.  A virtuous path of reconciliation must replace the vicious cycle of violence.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said the Security Council was meeting today as the Middle East, once again, was at the brink of grave crisis.  The rocket attacks had threatened to “undo in one stroke” the achievements of careful international diplomacy over many years.  The Sheikh, a paraplegic in a wheelchair, had been killed with eight other Palestinians.  The spectre of a new cycle of violence haunted both the Palestinians and the Israelis, and the peace process was “in mortal danger”.

He said the Council was meeting, not to defend any ideology or the actions of any one individual.  It was meeting to defend the principles of the Charter and international law.  The action by the Israeli armed forces was in complete violation of international law.  There could be no justification for targeted assassinations and extrajudicial killings as an instrument of State policy.  That was also in direct conflict with Israel’s obligations as the occupying Power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The logic of self-defence could not be extended to justify extrajudicial executions, he said.  Even suspected terrorists should be subjected to the rule of law, especially by a country that prided itself as a democracy.  Pakistan joined those who had condemned that provocative action, and expressed grave concern over its ramifications.

HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) said his country’s policy regarding the situation in the Middle East was based on a strict adherence to international law, the condemnation of the use of force, the fulfilment of international obligations and the full implementation of Council resolutions.  Faithful to that commitment, he condemned the assassination of Sheikh Yassin and others.  Extrajudicial executions were reprehensible acts and impeded understanding between the parties.  Together with the building of the separation wall, all political divisions were being erected between the parties, thereby imperilling the Road Map.  The assassination meant that maintaining the Road Map was increasingly difficult.

He also stated his condemnation of Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets.  Any act of violence in the area was counterproductive when it came to achieving peace.  The legitimate right of Israel to protect its citizens must be exercised in line with international law.  Israel should safeguard the security of its citizens without damaging the human rights of Palestinians.  He urged the parties to do their utmost to restore dialogue by fulfilling their commitments to achieve peace and stability in the region.

ISMAEL ABRÃAO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said he deeply regretted the prevailing situation, whereby any signal of hope was destroyed by terror and policies of collective punishment.  All efforts exerted over the years had remained engulfed in deadlock, which was the cause of great frustration and despair for the entire international community.  The recent events would cause a worsening of the situation.  Chile had stated its total condemnation of extrajudicial killings and regretted the events of recent days, which was the key reason for today’s meeting.  The killing of Sheikh Yassin would add to the frustration of the Palestinians and encourage extremist elements to carry on with suicide terrorist bombing.

It was necessary to break away from the cycle of violence, he said.  Terrorism and occupation were factors that fed the conflict and should be addressed.  He called on both parties to put an end to terror and occupation and avoid any steps that might escalate violence, as well as abide by their obligations under international agreements.  The international community, for its part, must persevere to bring the parties to the negotiating table.

GENNADY M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said he was deeply alarmed at the dangerous turn of events.  The lengthy Palestinian-Israeli conflict had cost thousands of lives and had had a destabilizing impact on the situation in the region.  He, once again, earnestly emphasized the deleterious effect of unilateral steps leading to a further escalation of the tension stemming from an Israeli military operation, which had resulted in the killing of a spiritual leader.  Israel had the right to self-defence and to protect its citizens, but that right must be implemented in accordance with international humanitarian norms.

He said his country was against the targeted killings of Palestinians, the practice of extrajudicial retaliations and the disproportionate use of force in densely populated areas.  It also condemned terrorism in all its forms, and could not condone the actions of extremists.  The Palestinian Authority must undertake vigorous measures to deter attacks on the Israeli civilian population.  He called on both parties to prevent a new wave of violence from “wiping out” efforts to resume the negotiation process, which had been undertaken by the Quartet and the key parties in the region.  It was only through the steady work of the Israeli leadership and the Palestinian Authority, using the Road Map as their platform, that the necessary conditions could be created for a lasting settlement.

WANG GUANGYA (China) said he opposed and condemned the assassination of the Sheikh by Israel.  The practice of targeted removal by Israel violated international law and, therefore, was unacceptable.  He favoured a prompt and proper response by the Council, and, in principle, he agreed with the draft presidential statement proposed by the Algerian delegation, on behalf of the Arab States.  He regretted the Council’s failure to reach consensus on that statement.

He said he had always held the view that the Middle East issue was extremely complex.  Meeting violence with violence would not help matters, but could only lead to more violence and conflict, further deteriorating the situation.  He was deeply worried about the potential impact the assassination might have on the regional situation and on the Middle East peace process.  He called on the parties to exercise restraint under the current circumstances and to refrain from taking any action that might further escalate the tension.

The international community must work even harder, take effective measures to stabilize the situation, and push the Israeli and Palestinian sides harder to resume the peace talks as soon as possible.  The only effective way to achieve peace was to seek a comprehensive solution through negotiation, based on the relevant Security Council resolutions. 

LAURO BAJA (Philippines) said he was deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East.  The condemnable killing of Sheikh Yassin and six others and the killings in Ashdod constituted elements in that deadly cycle.  The conflict could not be allowed to continue unabated.

He called on all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from actions which might cause further escalation of violence.  The conflict in the Middle East would never be resolved through violent means.  He urged the restart of the peace process, and asked the parties to fulfil their obligations under the Road Map to achieve a just and lasing peace in the Middle East. 

ANA MARIA MEŇENDEZ (Spain) said that Spain had been repeatedly opposed to extrajudicial killings.  As a result, she condemned the extrajudicial killing of Sheikh Yassin and six others, which occurred yesterday.  As pointed out by the Council of Ministers of the European Union, extrajudicial killings went against international law and undermined the concept of the rule of law.  Events such as those that had occurred yesterday delegitimized the fight against terrorism and seriously exacerbated a political situation which was already explosive, increasing the spiral of violence.

She condemned terrorism wherever it came from.  For that reason, she also condemned the terrorist acts committed by Hamas which had caused great suffering among Israelis.  While Israel had the right to defend itself and safeguard its citizens, it must do so while respecting international humanitarian law.  She asked both parties to refrain from violence, which would push back the possibility of reaching a just solution.  The Quartet’s Road Map was the best basis to reach such a solution. 

RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) expressed grave concern over the escalation of violence in the Middle East, with over 100 people killed and many others wounded in the last 30 days.  His Government condemned the killing of the Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and six other Palestinians.  Brazil deplored all recent acts of violence, carried out on an attack-and-reprisal basis, by Israelis and Palestinians.  He called on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and resume as soon as possible negotiations on the basis of the Road Map, which was endorsed by resolution 1515 (2003).

This regretful escalation of violence could not jeopardize the process of peace in the region, he said. It was essential for the Security Council to state its position regarding such an act, which could destabilize the Middle East region.

JOEL W. ADECHI (Benin) said the assassination had undermined the peace process.  All States must act in all circumstances in accordance with international law, the main goal of which was to ensure peace among nations and create a propitious framework for peaceful coexistence.  That was why he was profoundly indignant about the deliberate choice made by one party to use a policy of assassination and destruction of property. Terrorism had terrible consequences, and the Road Map would have no future if the road was littered with corpses.  But, the killing of one person did not justify the killing of another.

He condemned the killing of the Sheikh, but he also urged the Palestinian people to resist terrorist attacks.  It was essential that the Quartet members fully shouldered their responsibility in the current crisis by finding a way to encourage the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.  It was up to them to discourage escalation and confrontation.  The assassination must be condemned, and the Palestinian terrorism must be stopped.  Occupation of the Palestinian territories must also cease, and the right of Israel to live within secure borders must be respected. 

MIHNEA IOAN MOTOC (Romania) said he was profoundly concerned over the current situation in the Middle East.  Following that targeted operation by the Israeli security forces, the Council of the European Union yesterday condemned that extrajudicial execution and also recalled its ongoing condemnation of the terrorist acts committed by the Hamas organization.  The situation was extremely dangerous and could further exacerbate the security situation in the region, and imperil efforts to restart the dialogue between the parties.

He said he fully recognized Israel’s right to defend itself and provide for the security of its citizens in the face of terrorist attacks.  In order to break the cycle of violence, the terrorism must be suppressed and its infrastructure dismantled.  But, the fight against terrorism should not undermine attempts to reach a ceasefire and create the necessary conditions for a resumption of negotiations.  In this particularly difficult time, both sides must refrain from any violent action, which would further inflame the situation and cause greater suffering, thus, delaying any future prospects for peace.

JOHN NEGROPONTE (United States) said that the killing of Sheikh Yassin had exacerbated the situation in the Middle East and had set back efforts to promote peace.  While discussing the killing of Sheikh Yassin, it was important to also keep in mind the facts.  Sheikh Yassin was the leader of a terrorist organization, which had proudly taken credit for attacks on innocent civilians, including last week’s attack in Ashdod.  Sheikh Yassin was opposed to the existence of the State of Israel and actively sought to undermine a two-State solution in the Middle East.  The Council should not, and the United States would not, support initiatives which ignored that reality.

The Council, he continued, must not remain silent about actions of terrorist groups which thwarted the efforts of the Quartet, which had met yesterday in Cairo.  The international community must remain focused on how to resume progress in the road to peace.  There must be no detours.  One-sided action by the Council could only detract from the Quartet’s efforts.  Working in tandem with its Quartet partners, he called on both sides to fulfil their obligations to achieve the vision of two States, living side by side in peace and security.

GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said that it was timely and necessary that the Council react vis-à-vis the situation in the Middle East.  He was gravely concerned about the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East, especially regarding the consequences of the targeted extrajudicial killing of Sheikh Yassin.  Germany and the European Union had always strongly opposed extrajudicial killings, which were unacceptable.  Yesterday, the Council of Ministers of the European Union had stated unanimously the Union’s grave concern.  The European Union had also repeatedly condemned the terrorist attacks of Hamas.

The Union had recognized the right of Israel to protect its citizens, he said.  Israel was entitled to do so under international law, but was not entitled to carry out extrajudicial killings.  The assassination had inflamed the situation, and it was of the utmost importance to put an end to the spiralling cycle of violence and counter violence.  Violence was not a substitute for political negotiations.  Only negotiations could lead to a just and lasting settlement.  He called on all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from all acts of violence and terrorism, which made a peaceful settlement ever more difficult.  There was no alternative to a just solution of the conflict other than the Road Map.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France), speaking in his national capacity, said his country condemned the action against the Sheikh, as it had always condemned extrajudicial executions.  Those violated the fundamental principles of the rule of law.  That practice by the Israeli armed forces must stop.  Apart from the fact that it was illegal, yesterday’s attack could be counter-productive, politically speaking, as it carried with it the risk of exacerbating tensions.  In fact, it could only lead to a radicalization of the Palestinian population and, beyond that, of the populations of the Near and Middle East regions.

He said his country was extremely concerned about a further worsening of the situation and called on all parties to exercise the greatest restraint in the face of that latest blow.  France recognized the inviolable right of Israel to security and its right to defend itself and combat terrorist acts, which were reprehensible and morally repugnant under any cause.  But, the fight against terrorism must be waged in compliance with the law.  Israel’s security and that of its citizens required peace.  Violence could not be the solution.  Everything should be done now to save the Road Map and the possibility of a just, negotiated settlement.

He reaffirmed France’s conviction that only a just, negotiated solution leading to the end of the occupation of 1967 and the creation of an independent, sovereign and viable PalestinianState would give Israel the security to which all Israelis were entitled.  He called on the parties to fulfil immediately their obligation under the Road Map.

AHMED OWN (Libya) said the Israeli occupation had committed another crime which could be added to its register of crimes against the Palestinians.  Israel’s war machinery had assassinated Sheikh Yassin.  The assassination of that old and paralysed man was evidence of the fact that Sharon’s Government was living in a crisis of morality.  He denounced that atrocious crime and other crimes directed against the Palestinian people.  Also, he held the Sharon Government responsible for the genocide perpetrated against the Palestinians and called on the international community to shoulder its responsibility in that regard.  The announcement by the Israelis that Prime Minister Sharon had supervised the assassination and that he had congratulated the military for the operation was an example of the nature of the Israeli Government and its Prime Minister

It was clear, he said, that Israel did not want peace and wanted to obstruct any efforts in that connection.  Israel was trying to exploit the circumstances following 11 September 2001.  If Israel wanted to live in peace, all it had to do was withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories.  The continuation of the occupation and strengthening its grip on the Palestinians, the expansion of settlements and the building of the wall would not bring peace to Israel.  He called on the Council to bear its responsibility and adopt measures to ensure that Israel fulfilled the relevant international resolutions and obligations.  He supported the draft resolution presented by the Arab Group to avoid repetition of such criminal acts such as that witnessed yesterday.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said it was not possible to calculate the dire consequences of Israel’s act, which might be indicative of very dangerous trends of the Israeli Government.  That irresponsible act, which miscalculated the issues, should be condemned.  Its dire consequences and destructive results would be borne out in the coming days.  Such an act was part of an Israeli series of events that was always aimed at aborting any efforts towards peace.  The Government of Israel had proven, once again, that by pursuing such acts it was pursuing an approach that ran counter to international humanitarian law.  It claimed its actions were in pursuit of its legitimate self-defence, as if not everyone knew that what was happening was an attempt to end resistance to the occupation, which was tightening its grip on the people of Palestine.

He said that the use by the Government of Israel of violence and illegal killings threatened the path of the United Nations and the principles of international humanitarian law.  The Israeli path would return relations to the “law of the jungle” where might was right and authority superseded principles.  The situation was truly grave.  Members in this Chamber should not forget that, everywhere, Arabs, Palestinians and Islamic nations, and those with true faith, including in the noble humanitarian principles, were watching how the Council dealt with that tragic situation.  It should send a message by adopting a clear and determined position against the flagrant killing and ask that all inhumane violations be stopped immediately.

ABDULLAH M. ALSAIDI (Yemen) condemned the criminal act committed by the Sharon Government yesterday.  The Council had seen the unanimity of the countries that had spoken out against it.  The act was a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.  The attack had put an end to the remaining possibilities of reaching a peaceful solution in the Middle East in the framework of the Road Map.  The martyr Sheikh Yassin was one of the most important symbols of the struggle of the Palestinians.  Israel knew that the assassination of Sheikh Yassin could only lead to more blood and chaos and undermine the possibilities for peace.

The Palestinian resistance groups had not attacked the territories of others or occupied them by force, he said.  Rather, they heroically defended their land and population.  The international community must not let the cycle of violence continue.  His country would always support the Palestinian people in their struggle.  He called on the Council to adopt a decision which would protect the Palestinian people from the policies of liquidation and assassination.

NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL NASSER (Qatar) said that Israel’s insistence on the use of force against Palestinians in carrying out numerous violent acts, including organized State crime and extrajudicial killings, violated fundamental human rights and those of civilians living under occupation.  In the Israeli attack, 15 persons had been injured, including five who were gravely injured.  He condemned that heinous crime, convinced that Israeli violence ran counter to the teachings of all religions and the principles of international humanitarian law.  Such acts were an attempt by Israel to draw the whole region into a cycle of violence and undermine any chance for peace.  Continuous assassination attempts by the Government of Israel confirmed the fact that it was not seeking peace, but rather a clear-cut plan for escalation, leading to undesirable consequences. 

He said that Israel, the occupying Power, was responsible for that continuous cycle of violence.  Its forces continued to launch attacks against Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territories.  Actually, during the last few months, a large number of Palestinian civilians had been killed, including women and children, at the hands of the occupation forces, and hundreds more had been injured.  Hundreds of houses had also been destroyed, as Israel continued its settler campaign and the building of the isolation wall.

Israeli actions could place the whole region in an extremely explosive situation, in which civilians would be the main victims, he warned. Those acts could also undermine any chance for peace and increase the extremism and terrorism.  He expressed condolences to the Palestinian leadership and to the people of all Arab and Islamic nations, as well as to the families of the martyrs, who had fallen victim.  He fully supported the Palestinian people in their just struggle for independence and their legitimate rights.

KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said the killing of Sheikh Yassin, which he condemned, could not be justified.  It seriously harmed the Middle East peace process.  He feared that the killing might provoke serious retaliation and result in overall escalation of the conflict.  Therefore, the situation must be regarded as extremely serious.

He also expressed concern that the negative impact of the incident might not be contained within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but might spread to a broader geographical area.  To prevent that incident from further fuelling the chain reaction between hatred and violence, he urged Israel to take effective measures immediately to calm the situation, while exercising maximum self-restraint.  He called on the leaders of both sides to show courage and redirect themselves promptly towards peace through negotiation and resuming the implementation of the Road Map.

YAHYA MAHMASSANI, Observer for the League of Arab States, said that Israel continued to violate international law and international humanitarian law, as seen in the series of acts of killing and aggression against the Palestinian people.  That had been confirmed by the criminal act committed by Israeli occupation forces in Gaza on 22 March, leading to the killing of Sheikh Yassin.  He strongly condemned that heinous crime.  Any time efforts to realize peace in the Middle East could be seen, Israel committed an act of aggression that eroded any glimpse of hope.  The daily crimes of the occupation forces against the Palestinian people and the failure of the Council to put an end to such acts were totally unjustifiable.  How could the Council remain silent in the face of such crimes?

The policies of Israel aimed at aborting the peace process in its entirety, he said.  The Council was called on to shoulder its responsibility in accordance with the United Nations Charter to protect the Palestinians and put an end to Israel’s hostile policy in the region.  The core of the Arab-Israeli conflict was the continued occupation of Arab land by Israel.  He called on the Council to adopt a decisive position that would make Israel commit to retract from the policy of occupation, to give up the military option and resume negotiations, which would lead to the establishment of peace and security.

TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR (Bahrain) said that the assassination perpetrated by the Israeli army was an act of terror that fell within the systematic terrorist acts perpetrated by Israel, which aimed at assassinating the Palestinian leadership.  He strongly denounced and condemned that heinous crime, which had led to the death of the leader of the Islamic movement.  The planning and implementation by Israel of that dastardly crime proved, beyond any trace of doubt, Israel’s flagrant violation of all international decisions and the principles of international law and international humanitarian standards.  That crime was a stark example of the State terror systematically perpetrated by the Government of Israel, and proof of the extent to which Israel had gone unchecked in its violation of international law and international humanitarian law.

He said the assassination would foment the violence that had engulfed the occupied Palestinian territories, drag the region to further instability and kill any prospects for peace and security for the people and countries of the region.  The timing of the operation clearly showed that Israel did not heed any initiative aimed at realizing a just and comprehensive peace in the region.  He reaffirmed Bahrain’s support for the Palestinian people in their struggle to regain their legitimate rights and stressed the need to provide international protection to the Palestinian people and its leadership, in order to shelter them from Israel, its tyranny and its military mission.

RICHARD RYAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, condemned the extrajudicial killing of the Hamas leader and seven other Palestinians by Israeli forces yesterday.  The European Union had consistently opposed extrajudicial killings.  Not only were they contrary to international law, but they also undermined the concept of the rule of law, which was a key element in the fight against terrorism.

He went on to say that the European Union had repeatedly condemned the terrorist atrocities committed by Hamas, which had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Israelis.  The Union recognized Israel’s right to protect its citizens against terrorist attacks, to which that country was entitled under international law.  Israel was not, however, entitled to carry out extrajudicial killings.  Furthermore, the assassination, which had just been carried out, had inflamed the situation.  The European Union called on all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from acts of violence, which would only lead to more deaths and put a peaceful settlement still further from reach.

He concluded that violence was no substitute for political negotiations, which were necessary for a just and lasting settlement.  The Quartet Road Map remained the basis for reaching such a settlement.

ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) strongly condemned the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, which represented the brutal nature of Israel’s policy of organized assassinations and extrajudicial killings.  That murder would only lead to an escalation of violence and a deterioration of the conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories.  Furthermore, it threatened the security and stability of the region as a whole.

He called on Israel to cease its inflammatory policies and to work towards maintaining stability.  At the same time, he called on the Council to undertake its responsibilities and provide the protection needed to the Palestinian population under occupation in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention.

ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) said he had been surprised at the latest crime perpetrated by the Israeli security forces, whose objective this time was one of the most important Palestinian leaders.  He had been disturbed to hear the news of the assassination and condemned that crime, which would further escalate the violence and increase tensions.  That also threatened to impede efforts for peace and undermine possibilities for negotiations.

He called on the international community, particularly the Security Council, to assume its responsibilities in the present situation and to work swiftly and firmly, in order to deploy all necessary means to bring peace to the region.  He also renewed the invitation made by the Tunisian President at the Arab Summit in 2000 to offer urgent international protection for the Palestinian people through the intervention of international forces. 

PRAYONO ATIYANTO (Indonesia) strongly condemned the assassination of Sheikh Yassin.  Israel’s policy of targeted assassinations was not only illegal under international law -- it could not guarantee peace.  The militaristic approach of the Government of Israel did not favour the Government of Israel.  The strategy only yielded further violence. 

He called on Israel to recognize that its future was best served by returning to the negotiating table with the Palestinians.  He called on Israel to recognize that peace had a far better chance through dialogue than through military force.  Israel must immediately terminate the practice of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians, and return to negotiations.  Only such an approach could lead to peace, and to a just and comprehensive settlement as anticipated in the Road Map.

NABEELA ABDULLAH AL-MULLA (Kuwait) said she appreciated the convening of the meeting to discuss that hideous and deplorable crime, which was part of a series of assassinations targeting the Palestinian people and their national icons.  That policy was pursued by a Government, which was supposed to be seeking peace and not violence.  That State pretended to be a “peace government rather than a war government”.  She denounced that immoral and criminal act carried out by a Government, which was party to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. 

She said her country strongly condemned yesterday’s terror operation by the Israeli Government.  The Israeli military establishment had not been content to fire one rocket; it had fired two others.  That operation was a crime, which, once more, unmasked the barbarity of the Israeli occupation, which had assassinated an old man emerging from his dawn prayers.  She expressed her condolences to the family of the victim and his colleagues, and to the Palestinian people.  That assassination was an atrocious war crime, which could be added to the series of crimes committed by Israel against humanity, in violation of the principles of international law and in utter disregard of its commitments.

PAUL BADJI, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the killing of Sheikh Yassin was a premeditated assassination, according to a cold-blooded plan by the Israeli Government.  It was regrettable that instead of assessing progress in the peace process, the Council today had to consider that tragic turn of events in the occupied Palestinian territories.  In the midst of the erosion of trust between the two sides, Israel had exacerbated an already volatile situation by assassinating the spiritual leader of Hamas.  Many voices had cried out in vigorous condemnation of that act, which ran counter to international law and would probably revive Palestinian frustration and anger.

The Committee condemned extrajudicial executions, deadly attacks against innocent Palestinians, and all acts that not only poisoned the political climate but pushed back the chance of attaining a peaceful solution of the conflict.  The Committee demanded that the Israeli Government immediately put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people, as well as return to the Palestinians their land.

He appealed to the Council that it expressed clear condemnation of the assassinations that were a tragedy for the Palestinians and the Middle East.  The Council should also urge Israel to renounce its policy of denying Palestinians their inalienable rights, while urging both sides to refrain from any action that might make the situation worse.  He also called on the Quartet to exert its influence to expedite the implementation of the Road Map, which was the only guarantee for lasting peace in the Middle East.

FAWZI BIN ADBUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said that rarely a day passed without hearing about the sanctity of law and its importance in civilized societies.  While Israel claimed it was a State of law, it was really a State that was distinguished by its hostility towards international and humanitarian laws.  Yesterday’s assassination represented an episode in a chain of terrorist practices, which the Israeli Government had insisted on pursuing to target Palestinian activists and assassinate them mercilessly.  International relations today were experiencing very grave circumstances, as a result of the precedence given to the logic of force and the “upper hand” force had been given over law.  That had led to the total disregard for the norms of justice.

He said that the law of the jungle was prevailing through the adoption of double standards and the total adaptation of norms of international law, as well as the injection of explanations totally alien to international law.  All of that had led to “faulty and baseless” explanations of self-defence.  Such interpretation was not in line with the finding of the International Court of Justice on self-defence.  Yet, that principle had been used by Israel to justify its acts of aggression.

The Israeli Government had not hesitated in killing the Palestinians, displacing them or using famine as a weapon against them, he said.  That had distorted the principle of self-determination and the right of a people to resist occupation, and defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity.

ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates), condemning the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, said that that was not the first time that Israel had resorted to terrorism in the occupied Palestinian territories.  The assassination was more evidence of the Israeli Government’s contempt of international law.  It also affirmed Israel’s commitment to escalate tension and undermine peace efforts.

He called on the international community to condemn that act, move immediately to put an end to the continued Israeli aggression and provide international protection to the Palestinian people in the Arab occupied land.  The only way to stop the bloodshed was through a complete withdrawal of Israel from the land it had occupied in 1967, and implementation of all relevant international resolutions.  The international community must face up to its responsibilities towards the Palestinian people and compel Israel to return to the path of peace.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that the Israeli terrorist operation, which was a crime of war, was a continuation of a policy of assassination and killings perpetrated against Palestinians, in stark violation of international legitimacy and international humanitarian law.  Syria condemned that heinous crime, which was perpetrated in the context of other acts of killing and destruction.  That was also a grave escalation of the volatile situation in the region.  Regardless of the pretexts advanced by the Sharon Government, the international community should condemn that Government’s policy of killing and destruction.

He said that the deliberate killing of a disabled political leader had been the epitome of a policy of terror pursued by Israel, which targeted Palestinian civilians, a people languishing under the yoke of occupation.  That policy defied international laws and divine teachings.  The bragging by the Israeli head of Government that he had directly supervised that crime had proved that the policy and practice of terrorism was an official Israeli policy.  That must be condemned in the context of combating international terrorism.

The picture of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet members toasting the success of assassinating a disabled old man had been “truly nauseating”, he said.  Continued silence by the Security Council would only lead to further killing and violence in the region.  He appealed to that body to shoulder its responsibility and condemn that crime of assassination.  He also called on the Council to enforce its role and to adopt all measures to force Israel to respect all relevant resolutions of the Council as a prelude to resuming the peace process.

ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) said he condemned the most recent selective killing perpetrated by Israel, which had claimed the lives of Sheikh Yassin and six other Palestinians.  The State terrorism practised by Israel knew no boundaries, must be condemned and must cease.  Such killings were in line with Israel’s long history of violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people.  Among Israel’s contemptible practices were the demolition of homes, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings and the building of the separation wall in Palestinian land.  Also, the Palestinian economy had been suffocated.  Despite the appeal of the international community, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories continued to worsen.

According to recent information provided by the Secretariat, about 4,200 people had died since September 2000, almost 3,300 of whom were Palestinians, he said.  That was one of the most systematic violations of human rights of the modern world.  He reiterated the need to respect international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.  He reiterated Cuba’s full support for the cause of the Palestinian people against Israeli occupation and aggression.

At the same time, he condemned suicide attacks and other attacks against innocent Israeli civilians.  Violence and the use of force could not lead to the solution which the world awaited.  There was a clear double standard in the Council regarding the situation in the Middle East.  The deliberate extrajudicial killings not only claimed lives, but also dispelled any hope for progress in the peace process.

SAMI KRONFOL (Lebanon) said that the gravity of the situation that necessitated a request for the convening of the Council today lay in the denunciation and unprecedented suffering that had been caused both in the Arab world and the Islamic world, and every other corner of the globe by that heinous crime.  The martyr was a spiritual leader, an old and disabled man, visually and hearing impaired, who could not talk clearly, but only gesture.  That was a premeditated and deliberate crime perpetrated by the various apparatus of the occupying State using intelligence, fighter planes and missiles.  Some wished to mask that act with a hint of legitimacy, but that was an extrajudicial killing, and not a natural and permissible act.  Only hours after it was reported, the Palestinian people, as well as the peoples and governments from around the world, all rose to denounce that crime and express their anger.

He said that not a single State in the United Nations had failed to express, one way or another, its regret, concern and anger over that crime.  The Secretary-General had personally denounced such assassinations.  What was strange, however, was that after the international denunciation of that crime, the head of the Israeli Government appeared before TV screens around the world to say publicly that he had ordered that crime.  His conscience had not been affected by the gravity of the crime, and that was truly upsetting.  Lebanon expected the Security Council to rise to the challenge and express its solidarity with the Palestinian people.  Lebanon called for an expression of condemnation of the extrajudicial killing and for an end to all forms of violence by Israel.

DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said his Government had condemned the assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Yassin and six other Palestinians on 22 March.  It also condemned the suicide attacks in Ashdod last week, in which 10 Israelis had been killed.  The indiscriminate killings of Israelis and Palestinians only served to further fuel the cycle of violence and counter violence in the Middle East.  Today’s Council meeting offered the Council an opportunity to break its silence and to take a stand against extrajudicial killings before it was too late.  The Council had to accept that it was not dealing with two parties of equal strength and equal control over their respective populations.

He called on both sides to show restraint and not to provide a pretext on which further acts of violence and destruction would be carried out.  The only way to bring about peace in the Middle East was to have a comprehensive and unconditional negotiated settlement to end the occupation of the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories.

JAVAD ZARIF (Iran) said the assassination of Sheikh Yassin was a flagrant crime, which had created more instability and might plunge the region into another round of violence.  It was a deliberate attempt to torpedo any attempt to bring peace to the region.  While strongly condemning that latest Israeli criminal act, he believed there was an absolute need for the international community to heavily weigh in and prevent Israel from carrying out its nefarious designs against Palestinians, which would further jeopardize peace and security in the whole region.  The Council should shoulder its responsibility and act to prevent Israel from continuing to flout the will of the international community incorporated in numerous United Nations resolutions.

Therefore, it was sad that the Council should not reach an agreement on the text of a presidential statement, condemning the Israeli crime, due to one delegation, he said.  He hoped the Council would recognize the need to take decisive action in the face of the new tension.

JOHAN L. LØVALD (Norway) condemned the killing yesterday of Hamas leader Sheikh Yassin, which would lead to greater tension in the area and impede implementation of the Road Map.  He realized that Hamas had been responsible for a number of terrorist operations, which his country had deeply deplored.  That did not, however, justify extrajudicial killings like the one seen on 22 March.  The killing of Sheikh Yassin had created an extremely dangerous situation.  He urged the parties to refrain from further violence and lay the groundwork as soon as possible so that the Road Map could be implemented.  Efforts to implement an agreed Israeli withdrawal from Gaza must be given top priority.

KARIM MEDREK (Morocco) said that today’s meeting was taking place against an extremely grave backdrop, owing to Israel’s extrajudicial killings at a time when the international community had been looking forward to a resumption of the peace process.  Morocco fully rejected the dangerous policies pursued by the Israeli Government, which was further escalating its military campaign against the defenceless Palestinian citizens by assassinating its political icons, distorting its economic infrastructure, and attempting to build a wall of isolation.  All of those practices were in flagrant violation of the rules of international humanitarian law, as well as all pacts and charters of human rights.

He said that the international community had unequivocally condemned the latest assassination, branding it as a violation of international law and texts.  The policies pursued by the Israeli Government would only lead to a further deterioration of the situation and perpetrate the cycle of violence and counter-violence, thereby threatening the security and stability of the entire region and eradicating any chance for peace.  He denounced all acts of violence, which targeted civilians.  Such operations would impede international efforts to revive the peace process.  Morocco still had some hope, despite the present difficult circumstances, concerning the resumption of negotiations for peace.

RADZI RAHMAN (Malaysia) said the extrajudicial killing had sparked widespread international condemnation.  Malaysia strongly condemned that assassination and other blatant killings perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people.  The assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin had been a despicable provocative action perpetrated by Israel.  That would only serve to worsen the situation and invite further violence.  The international community and the Security Council must not stand idle in the face of that extrajudicial killing.  The Council must take concrete action to prevent Israel from committing further criminal acts against the Palestinian people and uphold the respect for international law.

He called upon the international community and the Council to urge Israel to stop further air strikes against the Palestinian people and seek a just, comprehensive and durable solution to the Palestinian question, including implementation of the Road Map.  Malaysia stood committed to a peaceful settlement of the conflict, supporting the two-State solution, based on the 1967 line.  Peace in the Middle East could only be achieved through the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination and national independence, and the exercise of the sovereignty in the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The Security Council had the responsibility to put a stop to Israel’s continued policies and practices, which dehumanized the Palestinian people.  The Council surely could not simply stand helpless while Israel’s unlawful occupation, domination and now assassinations of the Palestinian people continued unabated.  He once again urged that body to take clear and decisive action to condemn and stop the act of extrajudicial executions by Israel against the Palestinians, which had proven to be detrimental to the efforts towards a peaceful solution in the Middle East.

ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) said that the world was awaiting the Council’s reaction to a heinous war crime perpetrated by the Israeli forces –- the assassination of the martyr Sheikh Yassin.  Furthermore, Israel had declared that it had carried out the crime in a premeditated manner, that it had been planned at the highest levels of Israeli authority and that the Government was going to carry out more crimes.  Israel did that in total defiance of the Council.  Israel would not have dared to commit such a crime, had it not been for the position of the Council, which had remained silent to its previous crimes.  Israel saw a green light to carry out its crimes.  Yesterday’s crime was one of the most heinous acts of terrorism.  How long could the Council remain motionless in the light of Israel’s actions?

He appealed to the international community and the Council, in particular, to move and put an end to the escalation by the occupation forces that had stifled any chance of hope of returning to the peace process.  The policy of assassinations did not mean that the Palestinian people would stop wanting to resist.  The Arab people were awaiting a response from the Council, which was responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security.  Was there any other terrorism greater than the carnage perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people?  The events of yesterday represented a real danger to international peace and security.  It was up to the Council to realize what was right by adopting the necessary measures to protect the Palestinian people.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.