Hamas says rocket fire legal, slams ‘miserable’ US-led UN resolution against it

Letter from terror chief claims international law supports fire on Israeli cities; Israeli UN envoy likens missive to ‘a serial killer asking the police for assistance’

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh gives a speech on the first day of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday in Gaza City on August 21, 2018. (AFP Photo/Anas Baba)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh gives a speech on the first day of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday in Gaza City on August 21, 2018. (AFP Photo/Anas Baba)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh sent an open letter to United Nations General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa and to its member states late Wednesday, slamming a US-led push to condemn the Islamist terror group’s rocket fire at Israeli cities and calling it an effort to “delegitimize Palestinian resistance.”

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon said Tuesday that Washington was leading a push at the UN to win crucial backing from European countries for a resolution condemning the Palestinian movement, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since a violent takeover in 2007.

The General Assembly is expected to vote Friday or possibly Monday on the proposed resolution condemning rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli civilians, and demanding that Hamas end its use of violence.

“We in the Islamic Resistance Movement — Hamas are following up with great anger and condemnation the ongoing and miserable efforts by the United States of America, not only by adopting the Israeli narrative of the conflict, but also by providing all the necessary material and moral support for the Israeli occupation to continue its aggression against our people and deprive them of their basic rights of freedom, independence and self-determination, guaranteed by all international conventions and laws,” Haniyeh wrote in the letter.

Hamas, which is recognized by the US and the EU as a terror organization and which openly seeks Israel’s destruction, described the Israeli “occupation” in the letter as spanning “more than seven decades,” meaning since 1948.

Palestinian rockets are shot toward Israel from Gaza on November 12, 2018. (AP/Hatem Moussa)

It claimed that international humanitarian law legitimizes the Palestinian struggle, due to an article in the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions that states: “The situations referred to in the preceding paragraph include armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination, as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.”

International law prohibits the intentional targeting of civilian population in all contexts of war.

“We stress on the necessity to work hard to thwart the American efforts to condemn the resistance at the UN General Assembly,” the letter added.

Earlier this month, Hamas fired more than 400 rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip in the space of a single day, killing at least one person — a Palestinian man living in Israel with a work permit — and injuring dozens more.

It appeared to be the largest-ever number of projectiles fired at Israel from the coastal enclave in a 24-hour period, more than twice the number fired on any day of the 2014 Gaza war, according to Israeli statistics.

Danon responded to the Hamas letter by saying that “a terrorist organization going to the UN for assistance is like a serial killer asking the police for assistance.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon speaks to the General Assembly before a vote to condemn Israeli actions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, at the General Assembly in New York, on June 13, 2018. (Don Emmert/AFP)

“Hamas speaks about international law while it fires rockets into civilian populations, holds the bodies of IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens, and uses its own people as human shields,” Danon said.

Two apparently mentally ill Israeli civilians — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who entered Gaza of their own volition in 2014 and 2015, respectively, are currently being held by Hamas, along with the remains of two IDF soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, killed in the 2014 Israel-Gaza war.

“Israel and the United States will continue to mobilize the countries of the world into a united front against the terrorism that Hamas engages in on behalf of Iran,” the Israeli envoy concluded.

On Tuesday, Danon told reporters that US diplomats were in talks with their EU counterparts on the draft text for the resolution condemning Hamas. European backing would significantly boost chances of approval by the 193-nation body.

“The US is negotiating the language with the EU,” Danon told a briefing. “For us, it’s very symbolic to have this resolution presented with the support of the EU.”

If adopted, the resolution would be the first General Assembly vote to condemn Hamas.

Illustrative: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the 73rd United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2018, in New York. (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)

European diplomats said there were disagreements on the proposed US text, notably including references to UN resolutions and to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is supported by the UN.

A draft text seen by AFP “condemns Hamas for repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence” and “demands that Hamas and other militant actors cease all provocative actions and violent activity.”

While the European Union has put Hamas on its blacklist of terror groups, the 28-nation bloc has struggled to come up with a united position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On Thursday, the United Nations holds events to mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians, which commemorates the adoption of the 1947 partition plan intended to establish a Jewish state and an Arab state.

AFP contributed to this report.

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