Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Ambassador, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, 19 April 2004:



Mr. President,


            We return to the Security Council less than one month since this body last met to address the crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory because Israel, the occupying Power, continues its reign of terror against the Palestinian people.  To be more precise, Israel has never ceased its campaign of death and destruction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as the Israeli occupying forces have relentlessly, continuously and daily been committing war crimes, State terrorism and systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian people.  As the majority of the international community watches in shock and disbelief, the occupying Power continues to carry out the extrajudicial executions of Palestinian leaders and to kill, wound and maim defenseless Palestinian civilians, including women and children, in grave breach of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law.


            Two days ago, on Saturday, the 17th of April, less than four weeks after the extrajudicial execution of Sheik Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City, the Israeli occupying forces committed yet another extrajudicial execution when they killed Dr. Abdel Aziz Al-Rantisi, a political leader of Hamas.  The occupying forces fired missiles at the vehicle in which he was riding, killing Dr. Al-Rantisi as well as two other Palestinian men who had been with him.  This was in fact the second time that the occupying forces targeted Dr. Al-Rantisi for assassination.  The first attempt was in June of 2003, when seven missiles were fired at his car on a crowded street in Gaza City.  Although he survived that attack, two Palestinians, including a woman, were killed and 25 other people were wounded.


While it has become common practice for the occupying Power to launch such military attacks against targets in densely populated civilian areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, endangering the safety and lives of thousands of civilians, it is by no means a legitimate or justified practice.  The deliberate, excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force, including the extrajudicial executions, being carried out by Israel against the Palestinian civilian population constitutes a grave breach of international law and of Israels obligations as an occupying Power, as enshrined in international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention.


This latest in a long series of war crimes committed by the occupying Power was carried out in fulfillment of the repeated threats of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and other Israeli government and military officials to continue targeting Palestinian leaders for assassination in flagrant violation of international law and in complete and total disregard for the condemnation, pleas and demands by the international community for the cessation of such an illegal and barbaric policy.  Indeed, following the attack on Saturday, Mr. Sharon and other high-ranking Israeli officials publicly boasted and congratulated themselves on the success of the operation and proceeded to declare more threats against Palestinian leaders.


Mr. President,


            It is without a doubt that the recent failure of the Security Council to condemn the extrajudicial execution of Sheikh Yassin and to take urgent measures to address the deterioration of the situation, due to the veto cast by one of the Councils Permanent Members, has further emboldened the Israeli government to continue carrying out such illegal actions with impunity.  Without concern for reproach and punishment or for the consequences of its actions, Israel continues to behave as a State that is above the law.  Unable to uphold its duties for the maintenance of international peace and security when it comes to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Security Council has allowed Israel to continue acting beyond the parameters of international law, permitting it to use the most oppressive measures and practices to impose more death and destruction and loss on the Palestinian people under its occupation.


All of the atrocities being committed by Israel, the occupying Power, have been committed against an unarmed and defenseless civilian population that according to the provisions of international humanitarian law governing military occupation should be considered protected persons.  The occupying Power is obligated to ensure the safety and well-being of these persons.  Failing that, those persons are entitled to and should be accorded international protection.  Yet time and again the Security Council has failed to take the necessary measures to ensure the protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, leaving them at the mercy of the brute force and illegal policies and practices of the occupying Power.


Mr. President,


            Parallel to, and in conjunction with, its illegal actions against the Palestinian people, the government of Israel has intensified its attempts to carry through unilateral actions intended to further entrench the illegitimate measures already taken by Israel on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  The meeting last week of Prime Minister Sharon and United States President Bush and their exchange of letters and assurances took these attempts to impose a unilateral disengagement one step further.  The content of those letters violates relevant provisions of international law, as reaffirmed in numerous Security Council resolutions, and violates the rights of the Palestinian people.   It is an attempt to confer legitimacy on some of Israels illegal settlements, to negate the rights of the Palestine refugees and to dilute international opposition to the catastrophic expansionist Wall.  The content also is in complete departure from the Road Map, its substance as well as the principle of achieving a peaceful settlement through negotiations between the two parties and without prejudgement or preemption of final status issues.  As such, the content makes the work of the Quartet extremely difficult if not possible to carry out.


Even with regard to Gaza, the proposal falls far short from any real withdrawal, keeping control of international borders, airspace and water in the hands of the occupier and maintaining the so-called right to military attacks against Gaza.  This is an extremely negative and dangerous development that the international community must confront.  We should reaffirm the rule of international law, reaffirm the principle of the two-State solution based on the 1967 borders and reaffirm the right of all States and peoples to live in peace and security, free from attacks, terror and destruction.  Indeed, it has often been reaffirmed within this very Council that there can be no military solution to this conflict and there can be no alternative to adherence to international law and a negotiated and just and comprehensive political resolution.


Mr. President,


Before I conclude, I wish to say a word on fighting terror the repeated pretext used by Israel to justify all its actions, particularly the extrajudicial executions, against the Palestinian people.  We reiterate in this chamber that this is not what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about.  Terrorism and violence constitute one of the dynamics of this conflict.  It is a dynamic that has taken more prominence only in recent years, but it does not constitute the conflict itself.  Any parallels drawn between Israels actions against the Palestinian people and the war being waged against global terrorism are inappropriate and completely erroneous, and Israels constant attempts to draw such parallels and to exploit the international fight against terrorism must be rejected.


What this conflict is about is the belligerent military occupation of another people and their land by a foreign power for nearly four decades. It is about the unrelenting aggression and transgressions against the land and the people of Palestine by Israel, the occupying Power.   It is about Israels refusal to end this occupation, seeking all the while to acquire more land by force and to eliminate more of the indigenous population by wreaking widespread wanton death, destruction and misery in the attempt to fulfill its expansionist designs.  And all the while, Israel has been unconstrained in carrying out its unlawful and unjust policies and practices before the eyes of the international community. 


The time is way overdue for the international community to take urgent measures to address this ongoing tragedy.  This Security Council must take the lead in this regard.  The United Nations has a permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until it is resolved in all its aspects.  The Council must take bold and courageous actions to ensure compliance with its resolutions, adherence to international law and to bring an end to the cycle of violence and bloodshed that has prevented the two peoples and the entire region from the realization of genuine peace, freedom and security for so many decades.


Thank you, Mr. President.