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I write to draw your attention to recent terrorist activity and violations carried out against Israel, as well as relevant developments in the region, in connection with the briefing on the Middle East, to be delivered by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert H. Serry, before the Security Council on 26 February 2008.
At the outset, I wish to emphasize that these monthly letters reflect the very real, alarming and dangerous reality on the ground that Israel faces. Just this morning, a 10 year-old Israeli boy sustained serious injuries to his shoulder when a Qassam rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in the northern Gaza Strip landed near his school in Sderot.
Terrorist attacks carried out against Israel and the situation in the Gaza Strip
On 4 February, two Palestinian terrorists carried out a suicide attack against Israeli civilians at a shopping centre in the southern town of Dimona. One Israeli civilian, a 73 year-old woman, was killed and 11 others were wounded, among them one critically and two moderately. The two terrorists were killed during the course of the attack.
Qassam rocket and mortar fire targeting western Negev towns and villages continued with alarming intensity and regularity throughout the month of February, causing heavy casualties, particularly among the civilian population in the city of Sderot. Since the Council’s last discussion on the Middle East, more than 200 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip. During January 2008, an average of 12 rockets and mortars were fired each day. If the rate of fire continues, by the end of 2008, over 4,500 rockets and mortars will have been fired by Palestinian terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.
On 6 February, two girls, ages 2 and 11, were wounded by shrapnel after a Qassam rocket slammed into a playground adjacent to a kindergarten in Sderot.
On 8 and 9 February, a barrage of 40 rockets were fired at Negev towns and villages.
On 11 February, two Qassam rockets landed in the city centre of Sderot, injuring 8 year-old Osher Tuito and his 19 year-old brother, Rami. Doctors were forced to amputate Osher’s left leg during surgery. Eleven other civilians were treated for shock.
During the past week, from 19 to 21 February, Palestinian terrorists fired over 60 Qassam rockets and approximately 50 mortar shells at Israeli communities in the western Negev.
Data released by NATAL, the Israel Center for Victims of Terror and War, shows that 90 per cent of Sderot residents have experienced a Qassam rocket falling on their street or one adjacent to them. Some 28 per cent of adults and 30 per cent of children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, with children exhibiting extremely high levels of fear, avoidance behaviour, school, behavioural and somatic problems, regression and sleep deprivation.
Hamas terrorists still hold Corporal Gilad Shalit captive. Since he was kidnapped on 25 June 2006, Hamas has refused to allow the Red Cross or any other humanitarian agency to visit him and verify his condition. The refusal to provide details regarding Gilad Shalit’s condition is cause for great alarm.
As mentioned in previous letters, smuggling of weapons, money and other illegal munitions into the Gaza Strip present a grave danger. Hamas uses tunnels, burrowed deep beneath the ground, to move weapons into the Gaza Strip, turning the area into a launching pad for continued attacks and operations against Israel.
My Government has been clear — in words and in deeds — that it will do everything possible to ensure the humanitarian needs of all civilian populations. The flow of electricity to Gaza continues, and Israel works closely with the relevant United Nations and humanitarian agencies on the ground to ensure that the needs of the civilian population are met. The Nahal Oz Crossing remains open for the transfer of fuel and cooking gas, and the Erez Crossing is open for medical emergencies and humanitarian supplies.
Situation in the West Bank
Palestinian terrorism and violence also occurred in the West Bank, including an increase in stabbings, shootings and rock- and Molotov cocktail-throwing incidents.
On 12 February, an Israel Defense Forces soldier was stabbed in the neck by a terrorist. On 15 February, an Israeli woman was slightly injured and two vehicles were damaged when four Molotov cocktails were thrown at her by Palestinians. On 17 February, Palestinian terrorists opened fire on an Israeli bus travelling south of Nablus.
The Israel Defense Forces revealed that, last month, it had intercepted a truck destined for the West Bank carrying hazardous material intended for the assembling of explosive devices, including 800 kilograms of potassium nitrate.
Situation along the Blue Line
As my delegation has underscored in previous correspondence, the situation along the Blue Line remains precarious. From 16 January to 13 February, 53 violations of the Blue Line were recorded, totalling 808 such violations since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006). A listing of these violations can be found in the annex to the present letter.
In addition, my delegation calls your attention to four specific areas of concern in connection to the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006):
1. Arms embargo. Weapons continue to be transferred through the Syrian-Lebanese border, in violation of the arms embargo. Indeed, the 20 October 2007 position paper submitted by the Lebanese Government to the Security Council implicates Syria in facilitating the transfer of weapons. This is an issue of great concern for international security.
2. Rearming of Hizbullah. Moreover, some of these weapons are destined for areas south of the Litani River, where a rearmed Hizbullah maintains a formidable presence. Hizbullah’s rearming violates resolution 1701 (2006), and threatens the stability of the region.
3. The two abducted Israeli soldiers. Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, kidnapped on 12 July 2006 by Hizbullah, remain held by their captors, without any sign of life given or visit by the Red Cross. Resolution 1701 (2006) is explicit in its call for the immediate and unconditional release of the Israeli soldiers, and my delegation calls upon the Council to implement these provisions, without delay.
4. Demarcation of the Blue Line. Israel hopes that marking the Blue Line, as well as placing warning signs, will be instrumental in preventing future incidents. The incident on 7 January 2008, in the Halta area, underscores the need and urgency of demarcating the Blue Line.
State support for terrorist organizations
My delegation has consistently urged for an end to all Palestinian violence and terrorism against Israel. Palestinian terrorism remains the greatest obstacle to peace and security in the region. The Palestinian leadership must stop the violence, dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, end the cycle of impunity and bring the terrorists to justice.
Furthermore, we have underscored that terrorist organizations in our region operate with the support and backing of States, namely Syria and Iran. A case in point is Iran’s hosting of a representative of Hamas within its borders, in blatant violation of Security Council resolution 1373 (2001), which provides an overall framework for the obligation of States to refrain from supporting and funding terrorism. Syria too violates resolution 1373 (2001), as it serves as the headquarters for numerous terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, where Khaled Mashaal and Ramadan Abdullah, their respective leaders, both reside.
On 4 February, following the aforementioned terrorist attack in Dimona, Dr. Abu-Osama Abed Al-Ma’ati — a known Hamas terrorist leader who is hosted by the Iranian Government — threatened Israel with a new wave of suicide bombings. “We ceased to carry out these attacks for a year, but the enemy persisted with its aggression and the violations to the ceasefire. The Dimona attack is a message. That message is that Iz al-Din al-Qassam [sic] has renewed the suicide attacks.”
The Security Council, of course, has already condemned terrorism against Israel in the strongest possible terms, as referred to in the Council’s press statement of 28 February 2005 (SC/8325). Moreover, in resolution 1624 (2005), the Council condemned the incitement and attempts at the justification of terrorist attacks also in the strongest terms. In this regard, resolution 1624 (2005) calls upon States to prevent such conduct and prohibit incitement by law. In issuing the aforementioned statement, Hamas — whose operational command comes from inside Iran and Syria — has pledged itself to continue to murder Israelis, undermine the hopes and aspirations of the Israeli and Palestinian people to reach a peaceful agreement, and violate the will of the international community.
In contrast, responsible States fulfil their obligations to protect their citizens, and Israel will continue to act in self-defence, in accordance with its inherent right under article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. Similarly, Israel carries out its counter-terrorist operations with respect to the applicable rules of international law, and in particular international humanitarian law.
Incitement and threats by Iran
Pursuant to my delegation’s recent correspondence with the United Nations, I wish also to point to the number of highly alarming and sinister remarks made by senior members of the Iranian leadership, including its President, threatening the State of Israel, in the most offensive of terms.
On 20 February, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an audience in Tehran, “World Powers have created a black and dirty microbe named the Zionist regime, and have unleashed it like a savage animal on the nations of the region”. It is wholly inexplicable and unjustifiable that the leadership of a State Member of the United Nations would threaten another Member State and liken it to a “dirty microbe”. These threats blatantly violate the Charter, as well as article III (c) of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which is explicit in its demand for States to punish and prosecute those that carry out “direct and public incitement to commit genocide”.
Israel calls upon the international community to condemn without reservation these outrageous anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and racist threats, which undoubtedly constitute direct and public incitement to commit genocide. Similarly, the international community should demand that States refrain from aiding and abetting terrorist organizations, and cease incitement to violence, provocations and support for terrorism.
Excellency, in closing, I wish to underscore that Israel remains committed to the bilateral process with the moderate Palestinian Authority leadership that embraces its responsibilities and the two-State vision. Despite the escalation of terrorist activity and rocket attacks, Israeli leaders have continued to meet with their moderate Palestinian counterparts and move forward on negotiations.
At the same time, support for the moderates means that the extremists must be isolated. Hamas, in rhetoric and in action, has shown it has no interest in the establishment of a State. It does not seek to win rights for the Palestinians. Rather, its sole platform is to deny the rights of others, namely through vicious terrorism and violence against Israel.
Any support for Hamas, directly or indirectly, weakens the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and jeopardizes the prospects of reaching an agreement. There is no future for the Palestinian people with Hamas, and Israel will continue to combat the terrorism that Hamas generates.
I should be grateful if the present letter and its annex could be circulated as a document of the Security Council.