UN Envoy Shrugs Off Rocket Attacks on Israel
By Julie Stahl
CNSNews.com Jerusalem Bureau Chief
November 21, 2006
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights got a firsthand look at life in an Israeli city under siege on Tuesday when Palestinians launched Kassam rockets at the city of Sderot while Louise Arbour was visiting there.
But an Israeli official said Arbour’s reaction to the attack was “extremely disturbing.”
U.N. spokesman in Jerusalem Christopher Gunnes said Arbour had just arrived in Sderot, which has been under daily rocket barrages from the Gaza Strip, when two Kassam rockets hit the city.
A rocket — one of five launched at Israel Tuesday morning — hit a frozen chicken packing plant, critically injuring one man.
Arbour visited the site of the attack and expressed shock, said Gunnes. But Arbour’s position is that “Kassam rockets are illegal because they are too inaccurate to distinguish between combatants and civilians,” Gunnes said by telephone.
According to Gunnes, Arbour’s view is that since the beginning of July, nearly 400 Palestinians have been killed and only four Israelis — so “the Israeli army [is acting] with almost total impunity.”
The Israeli government had no official response to Arbour’s comments, but one Israeli official told Cybercast News Service that Arbour’s reaction while standing in a place that was being targeted by Palestinian rockets was “extremely disturbing.”
She “wholeheartedly” expressed her sympathy about the death of Palestinians in an unintentional Israeli attack but did not even find it in her heart to express the same for Israeli civilians who are being targeted by Palestinians, said the official, who asked not to be named.
Arbour’s spokesman Jose Diaz said that Israel has the responsibility to protect its citizens but must do so “within the human rights and humanitarian law.”
The Israeli official said that Arbour’s comments sounded as if she were encouraging the rocket fire to continue — as long as Palestinian militants could manage to hit military targets. “It’s very unbalanced,” the official said.
Arbour, a former Canadian Supreme Court Justice and prosecutor for war crimes trials in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, is on a five-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
She also visited Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, where a home was hit by errant Israeli artillery fire.
The newly formed Human Rights Council met last week and condemned Israel for the third time since it was newly revamped five months ago. Israel has long complained of unfair treatment at the hands of U.N. bodies.
The U.N. General Assembly on Friday passed a resolution condemning Israel and calling for an international investigation into the incident in Beit Hanoun several weeks ago when Israeli artillery shells — aiming at rocket launching sites — instead hit a residential area. The unintended attack on civilians killed 18 Palestinians, mostly women and children. Israel blamed the mishap on a technical failure.
Meanwhile, Hamas threatened on Tuesday to continue to launch rockets at Sderot until all its residents have fled.
Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida, said there was no limit to the firing of rockets, as Hamas would prove this in the coming days. Abu Obeida advised the residents of Sderot to leave even though the Israeli government is trying to convince them that it can stop the daily attacks from Gaza. “But we say we will continue to launch rockets,” radio reports quoted Abu Obeida as saying.
Israeli special forces and armored vehicles pushed deep into Gaza City overnight in an operation that was intended to arrest a Hamas militant, the Israeli army said.
A top Hamas local commander was shot and killed when exchanges of fire erupted between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen.