The “members of the Security Council understood Israel’s right to defend itself,” Israel’s envoy to the UN Ron Prosor said Thursday following a UN Security Council emergency session dealing with the situation in Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority must condemn the firing of rockets from Gaza, he added. At the session, Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour slammed Israel for its “onslaught” in the Strip.
There is “international understanding that Israel has the right to defend itself and that the reality of rockets being fired into Israel couldn’t continue,” Prosor told Israel Radio after the closed-door session at the UN on Wednesday night.
The Israeli ambassador challenged the planned Palestinian bid for upgraded UN status later this month, asking rhetorically if the upgrade was being sought “in the name of [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas or Hamas? In the name of the Palesinian government or a terror group trying to murder Israelis every day and every hour?”
“I didn’t hear Abbas or the Palestinian observer to the UN condemn the rocket fire at Israel,” Prosor said.
Prosor asserted that it was “the Security Council’s duty to fill the role for which it was created and condemn Hamas and the rocket fire at Israel,” but said that, based on previous resolutions, he expected the council would suffice with calling for restraint from both sides and an end to the violence.
Both the Israeli and Palestinian envoys were given permission to attend and speak at the emergency session, which was convened at Egypt’s request.
Prosor defended Israel’s decision to launch an offensive on Gazan terror groups following a four-day volley of rocket fire on towns in the south of Israel, and graphically described the situation in the country’s south.
“For just a moment I want to take you from this chamber into the towns and cities of southern Israel. It is the middle of the night there right now. Parents and their children should be sleeping in their beds. Instead, they are huddled in bomb shelters. They won’t go to school or to work tomorrow. Their life is paralyzed by Hamas rockets,” he told the council.
“We have demonstrated maximum restraint for years, but the Israeli government has a right and a duty to respond to these attacks,” he said. “Israel will not play Russian roulette with the lives of our citizens.”
He pointed out that no country had objected when Palestinians were “raining rockets on Israeli civilians,” and that no other nation on earth would tolerate such a situation.
“Hamas has turned Gaza into a dump of ammunition and weapons supplies brought in from Iran,” he said.
Mansour, the Palestinian envoy, sharply criticized Israel for its offensive against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Some 100 airstrikes were carried out against military targets in the Palestinian enclave, leaving at least eight dead, including Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari.
Mansour said Israel was “vulgarly and publicly boasting about its willful killing of Palestinians” after taking out Jabari, whom Prosor had characterized as a “mass murderer.”
“Once again the international community is witness to Israel’s malicious onslaught, using the most lethal military means and illegal measures against the defenseless Palestinian civilian population,” Mansour told the Security Council, according to a text of his speech given to reporters. “A direct firm message must be sent to Israel to cease immediately its military campaign against the Palestinian people and to abide… by its obligations under international law.”
He added that Israel was preparing a ground offensive, and fear and panic were spreading throughout the Strip.
The Security Council’s Arab bloc, led by Sudan, called for the body to condemn Israel.
Any such move is likely to be vetoed by the United States, which earlier Wednesday issued a statement condemning Hamas and standing behind Israel’s right to defend itself.
US Ambassador Susan Rice spoke in favor of Israel, saying it was not right for Hamas and other groups to terrorize Israel’s populace.
India’s Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the council president this month, said he hoped the closed-door debate would “help de-escalate the situation and impress upon the parties the need to exercise maximum restraint.
“The violence has to stop,” Puri said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke by telephone Wednesday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the situation, which he described as “alarming.”
“[Ban] expressed his concern about the deteriorating situation in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, which includes an alarming escalation of indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and the targeted killing by Israel of a Hamas military operative in Gaza,” a statement from his press office read. “The secretary general reiterated his strong condemnation of rocket fire out of Gaza and noted his expectation that Israeli reactions are measured so as not to provoke a new cycle of bloodshed that could cause additional civilian casualties and have dangerous spillover effects in the region.”
Ban also spoke with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi “about the worrisome escalation of violence in southern Israel and Gaza and the need to prevent any further deterioration,” a statement read.
On Saturday the Cairo-based Arab League is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Gaza.