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UN to weigh anti demolition resolution { May 18 2004 }

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UN to weigh anti-demolition resolution
Melissa Radler May. 18, 2004

Buoyed by international condemnation of Israel's military operations in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations Security Council planned to hold emergency consultations Tuesday evening to discuss a resolution demanding the cessation of "illegal" Israeli actions.

According to an early draft of the resolution, which was authored by members of the Arab League, Israel is to be condemned for "the recent large-scale demolition of homes committed by Israel, the occupying power, in the Rafah refugee camp, where approximately 1,100 Rafah refugees are now homeless," an "escalation of violence and attacks" in the West Bank, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem, and a slew of "illegal measures" in Gaza.

On Monday, the UN noted in a release that some 18,382 Palestinians in Gaza are homeless as a result of recent IDF action, including 2,197 people who lost their homes in the first 15 days of May. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) put the price of rehousing Gaza's homeless at $32m.

While Israeli officials stated their opposition to the draft, diplomatic sources described the text as "relatively moderate," noting that the PLO mission is hoping to see the US abstain from the vote. The US is one of five nations holding a veto power in the 15-member council, and the US has exercised its veto numerous times to prevent the adoption of texts it considers biased against Israel.

"Relatively speaking, this is a weak text," said a source.

In the past, the US mission's position has been to veto any resolution criticizing Israeli actions that fails to condemn Palestinian terrorist attacks and name the terrorist groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. A spokeswoman at the US mission declined to comment on Tuesday's text; she noted, however, that the US remains committed to supporting balanced resolutions, and that "normally, most of these resolutions are unbalanced."

The early draft, which was being revised ahead of Tuesday's meeting, demanded that Israel immediately halt house demolitions and end "illegal measures and practices" and respect international humanitarian law. While Palestinian terrorist attacks are not mentioned, a general condemnation of "all acts of violence, including terrorism, attacks, provocation, incitement, and destruction" was included in the text.

Calling Rafah a "terror city and the center of weapons smuggling," Israel's deputy permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Arye Mekel, urged Security Council members to put Israel's actions in Gaza into perspective and vote against the text.

"We hope that the Security Council members, who are now pretty much mobilized for the fight against terrorism, will understand that this is our war on terror," Mekel said.

The UN is not the only forum where Israel is coming under criticism for the military actions in Gaza.

The foreign ministers of the European Union, known as the General Affairs and External Relations Council, met in Brussels on Monday and released a statement that "condemned terror attacks on Israel and called on the Palestinian Authority to take immediate action against terrorist groups and individuals who plan and execute such attacks. The council recalled that Israel's legitimate right to self-defense must be exercised within the parameters of international law."

The statement said that the council condemns "the large-scale demolition of Palestinian houses in the Rafah district of Gaza as disproportionate and in conflict with international law and also with Israel's obligations under the road map as recalled by the Quartet on May 4. The council called on the Israeli government to cease such demolitions immediately."

At the same time, the council also "condemned any statements inciting violence," and "the inhuman treatment of the remains of Israeli soldiers in Gaza."

On Tuesday, however, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana issued a condemnation of the IDF's actions without mentioning Palestinian action or lack of action that preceded it. Solana denounced "the latest developments in the Gaza Strip, which have resulted in the demolition of houses and the killing of many Palestinians.
"I would like to strongly condemn what is taking place now in Gaza. The demolition of houses is contrary to the letter and the spirit of the road map. These actions break trust between the people."

Solana said the Quartet of which the EU is a member "has welcomed the Israeli plan to disengage from Gaza under certain conditions, but this is far from being the appropriate way of doing it. My personal envoy, Mr. Marc Otte, is now in the region for high-level talks with the parties. I will continue to follow the situation closely as it develops."

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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