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Protection of civilians in armed conflict
Mr. Gayama (Congo) (spoke in French ): ...
The Security Council has on a number of occasions deplored the fate of populations in the Middle East, who are victims of military blunders or of acts of terrorism, such as those directed at bewildered civilians in Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Iraq. Likewise, in the former Yugoslavia, the international community in recent years strongly deplored the heinous crimes.
In such cases, as in others, the international community is confronted by two different obligations that, however, are not incompatible: the obligation to prevent, and the obligation to act. My delegation, as Chair of the Security Council Working Group on conflict prevention, is currently working to determine the various factors that might enable the Council to work out a practical approach to help to prevent conflicts whose main victims are civilians.
The President (spoke in Arabic): I thank the representative of the Russian Federation for his kind words addressed to the presidency. I shall now make a statement in my capacity as the representative of Qatar.
The State of Qatar is part of a region in which civilians continue to suffer from the repercussions of armed violence. Dozens of innocent civilians are killed in Iraq every day. The war in Lebanon last July resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 people in only one month, most of them civilians. There have also been numerous victims in occupied Palestinian territory as a result of ongoing violence. They too are predominantly civilians. The total number of civilians killed since the outbreak of the recent crisis in the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict exceeds 4,000 since 2000.
Endangering the lives of civilians is not only a violation of international norms, laws and conventions — including the Charter of the United Nations — it is also a violation of numerous resolutions and presidential statements issued by the Security Council on the protection of civilians.
Mr. Carmon (Israel): ...
In recent months, we have been reminded of the vulnerability of and danger posed to civilians in our region by forces of extremism and instability, as evidenced by the conflict with Hizbollah in Lebanon and the ongoing Palestinian terror war against Israel. We have been reminded again that no side has a monopoly on victimhood or human suffering, and that the jagged shards of armed conflict can cut deep and wide, affecting all civilians – Israeli, Lebanese and Palestinian.
Over the summer, Hizbollah terrorists operating in southern Lebanon fired some 4,000 Katyusha rockets into northern Israel, explicitly targeting civilians in their homes and places of work. Hizbollah’s onslaught of raining rockets forced nearly 1 million Israeli civilians to flee their homes, causing insufferable damage to civilian life and infrastructure.
Similarly, the relentless Qassam rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip at Israeli communities in the South within the past year — more than 1,000 rockets to date — were all direct and targeted attempts on the lives of civilians, attacks against schools and synagogues, kindergartens and classrooms, shopping malls and playgrounds.
The blatant disregard of terrorists for the value of human life is a brutal maliciousness that we have seen even among their own populations. Hizbollah stored its rockets inside homes and launched attacks from positions nestled within the fabric of civilian life. In using civilians as human shields, Hizbollah sought to evade responsibility and accountability for its crimes.
Palestinian terrorists, too, have employed civilians as shields. Recently, Palestinian civilians in Gaza were specifically called to surround the home of a known terrorist. Human Rights Watch recorded the incident, declaring that
It is the obligation of all nations first and foremost to protect their people from all harm, but it is also the obligation of all nations to ensure that they and their citizens not endanger others. It is an obligation which Israel embraces. No doubt, strategic and ethical complexities regarding counter-terrorism exist; we addressed Israel’s perspective on the issue when we last spoke before the Council on this subject. But in the quest to secure our world and protect all peoples, we must strike the proper balance. Failure to hold terrorist groups accountable gravely endangers the vitality of the human project and will only encourage them to increase their abuse, manipulation and exploitation of civilians.
The ceasefire in our region, initiated and agreed upon by Prime Minister Olmert and Chairman Abbas one week ago, is a sign of promise for all citizens of the region — all civilians, no matter their nationality. But we must see to it as well that the underlying tensions of the conflict and Hamas’s disregard for its internationally accepted obligations — recognition of Israel, renouncing violence and terror, and abiding by previous agreemen The ceasefire in our region, initiated and agreed upon by Prime Minister Olmert and Chairman Abbas one week ago, is a sign of promise for all citizens of the region — all civilians, no matter their nationality. But we must see to it as well that the underlying tensions of the conflict and Hamas’s disregard for its internationally accepted obligations — recognition of Israel, renouncing violence and terror, and abiding by previous agreements — are addressed.
The past few months have been difficult, with difficulties levied particularly on civilians, but the past cannot be changed and the victims of the conflict cannot be returned. What remains is the course we chart together for the future. Prime Minister Olmert reasserted that position in his remarks just last week:
The meeting rose at 5.15 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. The final text will be printed in the Official Records of the Security Council . Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A.