Israel lashes out at UN over Gaza

Israel lashed out Sunday against a United Nations resolution calling for a probe into a botched Gaza shelling as ministers convened to discuss the ongoing battle against Palestinian rocket attacks.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert criticised the UN General Assembly resolution calling for a fact-finding mission to probe an Israeli shelling that killed 19 Palestinians this month, as three Israelis were wounded by Palestinian rockets.

“I view it severely,” Olmert told the Cabinet meeting, more than 10 days after artillery slammed into private homes in Beit Hanun killing mostly women and children in northern Gaza.

“We have no doubt that it is the State of Israel which must respond to attacks on civilians. We have expressed our deepest regret over this.

“But those who preach morality and roll their eyes have yet to see fit to initiate a resolution in condemnation of those who are shooting with the goal of hitting civilians as a long-range, systematic policy,” Olmert added.

The premier vowed to do everything to help residents on the frontline of rocket attacks as Israel called off an air strike on a militant’s home in the northern Gaza Strip after several hundred Palestinians formed a human shield.

“We will continue to do what we need in order to assist those at the forefront of the struggle, facing Qassam fire in the south,” Olmert said.

Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz warned again that “those responsible for rocket fire would pay the price”.

Overnight several hundred neighbours flocked to the house in the Jabaliya refugee camp after receiving a warning it would be destroyed, but an Israeli military spokesperson said the strike was called off because of the crowds.

Nevertheless violence continued elsewhere, with the armed wing of Islamist movement Hamas, which heads the boycotted Palestinian government, claiming the latest rocket attack on Israel, wounding three civilians.

A similar salvo of rockets, claimed both by Hamas and main rival Islamic Jihad, killed a mother of two in Sderot last Wednesday in the first such deadly attack since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 following a 38-year occupation.

Two days later, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging an immediate end to all acts of violence on both sides, including an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian rocket firing into Israel.

The text also asked the UN secretary general to set up a fact-finding mission to probe Israel’s shelling in Beit Hanun on November 8.

Israel has said a technical error was responsible for the fire and expressed regret, yet faced with ceaseless Palestinian rocket attacks, Cabinet ministers united in slamming what they called “hypocrisy”.

“Regrettably no one is suggesting that an investigative committee be formed in the terrorist organisations, in the Palestinian Authority and in Hamas, which are doing everything possible to harm innocent civilians,” Peretz said.

More than 300 Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers have died in Gaza since Israel launched operations there in late June, in a bid to recover a soldier seized by militants, including from Hamas, and halt rocket attacks.

“We cannot accept in any form or manner the capability to attack Israel from across the border from Gaza. Any sane nation would do the same, and the UN condemnation is outrageous,” Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog told the cabinet.

“Suddenly when Israel reacts to protect its own citizens, suddenly the United Nations calls up and [is] condemning Israel.
This is real hypocrisy,” added Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit.

With rocket attacks continuing and the conscript still captive, Olmert has spoken out against a large ground offensive as a deterrent, saying en route back from the United States “this is not a war with a ‘quick-fix’ solution”.

Local media reported that the Cabinet was unlikely to make any new decisions on Sunday albeit after several ministers called for targeted killing operations against Hamas leaders, including prime minister Ismail Haniya.—AFP

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