Libya withholds support for UN draft condemning Qassam fire
14 of 15 Security Council members approve; UN sources: Syria pressured Libya to reconsider at last minute.
NEW YORK - Under pressure from Syria, Libya is withholding support for a Security Council draft declaration which includes an unprecedented condemnation of Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.
The draft presidential declaration devised by the United States gained approval of 14 out of 15 member states that comprise the Security Council.
Sources at the UN told Haaretz that all 15 states were minutes from signing the non-punitive declaration which for the first time ever condemns ongoing Qassam fire at southern Israel from Gaza, when Syria pressured Libya's ambassador to the UN, Giadalla Ettalhi, who this month assumed the rotating presidency of the Security Council, to reconsider the bill at the last minute.
A decision on the draft statement is expected to be reached when the Security Council reconvenes on Monday. UN sources said Libya has requested time to discuss the declaration with other Arab states. The statement would also condemn other terrorist activities against Israel.
Sources at the UN headquarters in New York said the U.S. proposed the draft after a third day of discussions Thursday failed to produce agreement on a presidential statement about the situation in Gaza.
The draft statement also does not condemn Israel for imposing a blockade on the Strip, but rather calls on Jerusalem to take measures to ease the suffering of Gaza civilians.
A Western diplomat told Haaretz that, if approved, the statement would be the Security Council's first direct and explicit condemnation of the rocket fire.
The Arab League has submitted a non-binding draft statement to the council which expresses concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, criticizes the attacks on Israel and calls on the Israeli government to reopen the border crossings.
Only one of the 15 council members - the United States - opposes the Arab draft. A senior U.S. envoy said Washington was unhappy with it because it fails to condemn what it calls the terrorism against Israel and ignores the causes of the problem.
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which seized control of Gaza after routing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah forces in June 2007, was ultimately responsible for what was happening in Gaza. He said any council statement needed to reflect that.
"The Security Council has never addressed the issue of the illegal coup usurping power from the legitimate Palestinian authority by the terrorist group Hamas," he said, adding that this was at the "core of the problem."
Israel's Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman expressed a similar view. "It is Hamas which is punishing and hurting its own people," he said.
Arab envoys rejected the U.S. and Israeli views, saying they wanted the council to highlight the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. They said if Washington rejects the statement, they might resubmit it as a binding resolution and challenge the U.S. delegation to veto it.
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari accused the Americans of "trying to turn the victims into victimizers and the victimizers into victims" with their proposed amendments.
Ryad Mansour, the permanent Palestinian observer to the United Nations, told reporters "Israel should take note that 14 members of the Security Council ... are saying that the humanitarian situation in Gaza cannot be tolerated."
Israel: UN humanitarian official ignoring rocket fire on Negev Gillerman criticized the UN humanitarian affairs chief on Thursday for failing to acknowledge the suffering caused by Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza.
The ambassador was referring to comments last week by UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs John Holmes, who said Israel's decision to shut all border crossings with Gaza had led to a humanitarian crisis and was "collective punishment" for its 1.5 million people.
"I did not hear Mr. Holmes describe the 4,100 rockets which have been launched at Israeli cities aimed at the killing of Israeli babies and children, innocents, as a humanitarian crisis," Gillerman told reporters.
"I want to remind Mr. Holmes and everybody else who is so worried about the situation in Gaza that Israel left Gaza over two years ago completely," he said.