Last update - 02:00 20/11/2006
Israel rejects UN condemnation of Beit Hanun deaths
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday dismissed a UN General Assembly resolution that deplored a deadly Israeli artillery strike two weeks ago in Gaza, saying the forum should aim its criticism at Palestinian militants.
The assembly on Friday passed overwhelmingly a motion by Arab states over the Nov. 8 shelling that killed 19 civilians in the town of Beit Hanun. The resolution also urged a UN probe and an immediate Israeli troop pullout from the Gaza Strip.
"I have no doubt that it is not the State of Israel that should be answering questions about the harming of civilians, especially after we voiced deep regret at the harm done," Olmert told his cabinet in broadcast remarks.
He said Palestinian gunmen and rocket crews were to blame for the violence in Gaza, describing them as "striking civilians as a methodical and consistent policy, without those who preach morality and roll their eyes seeing fit to condemn them."
Since Israel's military offensive resumed in Gaza, following the abduction of soldier Gilad Shalit in June, around 350 Palestinians have been killed, about half of them civilians; four Israelis, three of them soldiers, have been killed.
The barrage on Beit Hanun, which Israel said resulted from a sighting error, drew a global outcry.
Qatar, the only Arab member of the UN Security Council, drafted a resolution that would have condemned Israel in the powerful forum, but it was vetoed by the United States.
Israel Radio quoted Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as saying Friday's resolution in the General Assembly, which was largely symbolic, showed pro-Palestinian nations were "letting off steam" after the United States' veto.
But the head of the world's biggest Islamic bloc, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said on Saturday that the UN vote showed Muslim countries had influence and they should use it "to stop Israel acting like a country above the law."
The General Assembly resolution called for the immediate cessation of all acts of violence by both the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and asked Secretary General Kofi Annan to set up a fact-finding mission to look into the attack on Beit Hanun.
Israeli officials had no immediate response as to whether they would cooperate with such an investigation. Israel has long accused the General Assembly, where emerging nations often vote in blocs, of being biased against it.
"I am not sure that Israel will cooperation with it [the probe]. We don't need the United Nations to check what happened," Dan Gillerman, Israel's UN ambassador, said in an Army Radio interview on Saturday.