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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Fifty-eighth General Assembly
Plenary
38th & 39th Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/10178
21 October 2003


ENHANCED PROTECTION OF HUMANITARIAN PERSONNEL, SECURE ENVIRONMENT, VITAL FOR AID DELIVERY, GENERAL ASSEMBLY TOLD

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Background

The General Assembly met this morning to continue its consideration of the strengthening of United Nations coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, including special economic assistance.  For background, see Press Release GA/10176 issued on 20 October.

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Statements

ABDULAZIZ BIN NASER AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) ...

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The United Arab Emirates, he said, had always paid its financial obligations to the United Nations and peacekeeping budgets and had donated to humanitarian and development activities.  Through a number of specialized national institutions, his country had provided emergency relief to developing nations and those affected by natural disasters and conflict.  It was estimated that the country spent 3.5 per cent of its gross national income on foreign aid, which included emergency relief assistance, donations and loans to 50 African, Asian and European countries.  Further, his delegation was concerned about the dire humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people, caused by the Israeli policies of killing, destruction and closure of cities.  He called on the international community to compel Israel to stop the building of the separation wall.  Lastly, he asked that Israel allow international humanitarian organizations to deliver needed emergency assistance to the Palestinian people.

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ARYE MEKEL (Israel) said the item dealing with assistance to the Palestinian people was misrepresented, and insisted that his country supported efforts made by the donor and international communities to alleviate the hardships of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza.  Israel was sensitive to the humanitarian and economic needs of the Palestinian population, and viewed the addressing of those needs as a fundamental Israeli interest.  The provision of assistance to the Palestinian people was a primary component of Israeli policy, which had arisen from the belief that stimulating the economic growth of the Palestinian economy and enhancing the welfare of the population was integral to the future of the region.

However, he continued, despite Israel’s mounting security concerns, it had endeavoured to the greatest extent possible to permit a steady flow of food, medicine, humanitarian assistance and other essential supplies.  Israel had done its utmost to ensure that its legitimate security precautions affected Palestinian life and economic activity as little as possible.  He also welcomed the efforts of Member States and organizations such as the UNDP, UNRWA, UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.  Israel was also committed to ensuring that those organizations were empowered to fulfil their humanitarian and development mandates, despite the extremely difficult security situation on the ground.

He said that the Palestinian observer had blamed Israel’s security measures for the increasing hardship of Palestinians.  But he argued that that presentation was like “beginning a story from the middle”.  The Palestinian plight was due to two factors, namely the “corruption of the Palestinian leadership” and Palestinian terrorism.  Israel, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, had taken a broad range of actions since 1994 to promote and improve the free movement of goods and labour from the Palestinian Authority areas into Israel.  Also, industrial parks were set up in the Palestinian Authority, involving substantial Israeli investment and economic cooperation.  However, it was only after violence had been employed as a political tool that Israel was left with no choice but to implement essential security measures to defend itself from Palestinian terrorism.

He insisted that the security precautions were not so-called “collective punishment” because Israel had no desire to unduly burden the Palestinian population, but rather to ensure the security of Israeli citizens facing daily threats to their lives.  At the end of the day, the welfare and safety of both Palestinian and Israeli peoples was inextricably tied to the fulfilment, once and for all, of the Palestinian obligation to fight and dismantle terrorism.  That alone would obviate the need for Israeli security measures and pave the way for peaceful negotiations based on mutual recognition and mutual compromise.

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Right of Reply

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The observer for Palestine said Israel’s earlier statement had been filled with mistakes and lies.  While she would not go into details, she said that statement had blamed the deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories on Palestinian terrorist actions.  That could not be farther from the truth.  Indeed, the current conditions were a direct result of the continuation of Israel’s ugly occupation of Palestinian lands and the escalation of Israel’s bloody expansionist campaign against the Palestinian people and leadership.

Just yesterday, the occupying Power bombed the Gaza Strip, killing 11 people, including two children, and wounding scores more.  And still the campaign continued, despite the objections of even some Israelis.  But Israel covered the crimes by suggesting that its actions were a defence against terrorism.  The policies and actions of Israel had led to the suicide bombings, not vice versa.  Israel was responsible for the destruction of three generations of Palestinians and should accept that there would be no peace during the occupation.  Israel should not be allowed to exploit the international war against terrorism as a cover for its expansionist policies.  Before talking about corruption, Israel should return the money it had stolen from the Palestinians.

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The representative of Israel said his country’s actions had been in exercise of the basic right of all States to self-defence.  Since the first of the month, two dozen Kassam artillery rockets had been fired by Palestinian terrorists into southern Israel -- 10 in the past 48 hours.  Since the Palestinian Authority was doing nothing to address terrorism in its own midst, Israel had been forced to act.  Its response had been measured and calculated, to do as little collateral damage as possible.  The Palestinian Authority was using civilians as shields, he added.

He said Israel had used precision weapons to destroy weapons warehouses, factories and depots, as well as vehicles that had been used in the attacks.  Israel had also intercepted an attempted terrorist attack.  He stressed that sophisticated radar surveillance had shown that no civilians were visible in the target areas and no casualties had been apparent.  The sole purpose of the attack yesterday had been to impair Hamas’ capability to wage terrorism.  Israel deeply regretted the loss of innocent civilian life during its attempt to root out terrorists.  As long as terrorists chose to position themselves in the midst of civilian infrastructure -– shielding themselves behind civilians -- and the Palestinian Authority refused to act, the Authority must bare the responsibility for those unfortunate casualties.

He added that the area had been under the Authority’s control and there was no excuse for its complacency with terrorist cells and groups.  They should have been dismantled long ago.  Having no alternative, Israel must do what the Palestinian Authority had refused to do -- fight Palestinian terrorism.

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The observer for Palestine said the Israeli representative could only present a “standard issue” statement regarding terrorism, which was highly questionable.  Israel repeated that statement time and again and plugged it in to address any situation.  That statement had been insulting to the Assembly.  Regarding the attack on Gaza yesterday, she regretted that Israel had forgotten to mention that 100 civilians had been wounded in the attack.  Those were the facts.

The representative of Israel said now that the observer for Palestine’s response had given him the opportunity to address the Assembly for five more minutes, he would address the issue of suicide bombers.  The morally abhorrent claim that Israel was responsible for suicide bombings must be rejected.  He went on to highlight what Israel felt was an orchestrated attempt to promote women as suicide bombers.  He said that two weeks ago, a female Palestinian suicide terrorist had killed 21 Israeli civilians.

He said several others had been apprehended before they could do damage, including one aged 15 and another hiding a bomb under a maternity dress.  The Palestinian Authority, not Israel, had regularly targeted women in its promotion and glorification of suicide terrorism.  The Palestinian Authority had undertaken a very public campaign of promoting women as terrorist bombers.  The promotion had led to a string of unsuccessful suicide bombing attempts by women until a supermarket bombing in March 2002.  The campaign to turn women into suicide bombers was sadly succeeding.

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