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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
28 February 2008

Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


** Middle East

On the Middle East, yesterday evening we issued a statement on southern Israel and Gaza, which I’ll now read into the record.

The Secretary-General is deeply concerned at the loss of civilian life in southern Israel and Gaza, and at the escalation of violence that has taken place.  The Secretary-General condemns rocket fire against Israel by Hamas, which intensified yesterday and killed an Israeli civilian in Sderot.  He calls on Hamas and other militant groups to cease such acts of terrorism.  The Secretary-General also condemns the killing of four Palestinian children, including an infant, in Gaza in IDF [Israel Defense Forces] strikes.  He calls on Israel to exercise maximum restraint and ensure respect for international humanitarian law so as not to endanger civilians.  These events underscore the urgent need for calming of violence and must not be allowed to deter the continuation of the political process.

And regarding the infant who was killed, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, has confirmed that the six-month-old baby was killed in an UNRWA school compound, which is near where yesterday’s military strike took place.  The infant was the grandchild of the school’s guard, which lives on the compound and is tasked with keeping the school free from militants.  In addition to condemning the killing of the baby, UNRWA deplores any violence that puts its schools and other facilities at risk.

**Security Council

The Security Council has scheduled consultations on non-proliferation at 4:30 this afternoon.

** Gaza

On Gaza, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, or UNSCO, says it is closely watching the fuel situation in Gaza.  According to UNSCO, Gaza’s power plant may have to shut down one of its two turbines tomorrow morning if the crossing that allows fuel from Israel into Gaza remains closed.  Although some areas of central Gaza have already been experiencing power cuts of approximately 8 to 12 hours a day, a turbine shutdown could cause cuts of as much as 20 hours a day.  UNSCO says this latest situation shows the precariousness of the lack of fuel reserves.


Question:  I have a question about the statement issued by the Secretary-General yesterday on Israel and Gaza.  Some people have been saying the statement has not been balanced.  It starts with the events in Israel while there were more civilians killed on the Palestinian side with at least four children killed, but nevertheless, the Secretary-General broached it in a certain way that does not really reflect the magnitude of the losses.  Also, Mr. Pascoe and Mr. Serry have repeatedly said that the United Nations is against targeted assassinations and, while the Secretary-General condemns Hamas and rocket fire, he does not condemn Israel for continuing targeted assassinations, which leads to the action or retaliation by Hamas.

Spokesperson:  The statement, if you read it, also implies…

Question:  I very much read the statement and it does not condemn at all Israel’s continued daily targeted assassination of people in Gaza, which many people in the region see as leading to retaliation by Hamas, so I was wondering whether this statement is really balanced or not? 

Spokesperson:  The statement stands on its own and I think the Secretary-General has come out quite often on the question of targeted assassinations.

Question:  While there’s a feeling that there’s an imbalance in the Secretary-General’s statement, has the United Nations prepared any figures that, since this movement began, how many Palestinians have been killed by Israel and how many Israelis have been killed by the rocket attacks?  Can you get the figures at least from the Humanitarian Office or whichever office compiles these figures?  We’d like to know what has happened, where’s the imbalance?  Can you get those figures?

Spokesperson:  Sure.

[The correspondent was later informed that, in his brief to the Security Council on 26 February, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, said that, from 30 January to 26 February, one Israeli had been killed by Palestinian militants, and 45 Palestinians had been killed during Israeli incursions into Gaza and the West Bank.]

Question:  Just to add on to the same statement, because Mr. Ban Ki-moon called the rocketing of Sderot by Hamas as an act of terrorism, and I was wondering why he did not call killing four civilians and over 18 Palestinians in less than 24 hours as an act of State terrorism as well? 

Spokesperson:  I cannot second-guess the terms of the statement.  I can only tell you that the statement stands for what it is.


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