The international community must reject the agenda of the extremists and support that of the moderates calling for coexistence and the realization of two states living side by side in peace and security.
Statement by Israel Ambassador Gabriela Shalev to emergency meeting of the UN Security Council
Last Saturday, Israel launched a military operation aimed at protecting Israelis living in Southern Israel from the incessant barrage of rocket and mortar shell fire. Israel was compelled to resort to a military operation after many weeks – and indeed months and years – in which its civilians were subjected to deliberate terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations operating from the Gaza Strip. Israel demonstrated utmost restraint before launching this operation, but there comes a time when a sovereign, responsible government must take decisive action to protect its citizens and send a clear message to the Hamas terrorists: “enough is enough!"
In the last two weeks, prior to Israel’s reaction, we have witnessed a steep escalation in the attacks of Hamas against Israel. Israel has been subjected to more than 300 rockets and mortar shells that were launched indiscriminately, striking cities and towns, schools and playgrounds, commercial centers and synagogues.
In its military operation, Israel exercised its inherent right to self-defense, enshrined in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Any other State would have acted in the same manner faced with similar terrorist threats.
No sovereign state would allow that more than half a million people are constantly held hostage by a terrorist organization. No sovereign state would allow its citizens to become the target of thousands of rockets and mortar shells. A mother sending her children to school must know that they will come back safely. No person should fear leaving his house because he may have to scramble for cover. No construction worker should fear dying while earning his living, as we have witnessed just two days ago. Israel cannot, and will not, allow its citizens to be sitting ducks for terrorist attacks. Israel will continue to take all necessary measures to protect its citizens and stop terrorism.
You must ask yourself, "What would you do in the same situation, were your citizens terrorized on a daily basis?" Protecting one’s citizens’ lives and wellbeing is not only a right but the responsibility of every sovereign state, and with its military operation, the State of Israel is fulfilling this responsibility.
Let us all remind ourselves what Hamas is all about. Hamas is a terrorist organization, which promotes a radical agenda of hatred and violence. It is supported financially and militarily by Iran and other extreme forces in our region, and ideologically is tightly connected to Al-Qaida. It does not recognize Israel and calls in its charter for Israel’s destruction. Hamas rejects peace in the Middle East. Like other terrorist organizations, Hamas strive to achieve its political goals by targeting innocent men, women, and children, without hesitating to use its own population as a human shield. Hamas controls Gaza not through democratic means, but through violence and force against its political rivals. It is regrettable that the Palestinian Observer failed to mention Hamas, an organization that declared war on its own people and holds them hostage.
Hamas stands against the very principles and purposes which the United Nations was founded upon and seeks to promote. It stands against any peaceful solution for the conflicts in our region.
Let me be very clear. The targets of this operation are the terrorists and their infrastructure alone. We are not at war with the Palestinian people, but with Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. As such, we are doing our utmost to minimize civilian casualties. Hamas, on the other hand, places civilians in the line of fire, carrying out its activities from densely populated areas and directs its attacks towards Israeli civilian targets. The current operation has exposed once again that Hamas stores weapons and explosives in homes, schools, mosques, and hospitals. It is Hamas that bears the sole responsibility for the current escalation and for any civilian casualties, Israelis and Palestinians alike.
While determined to protect the lives of its citizens, Israel continues to ensure passage of humanitarian goods and supplies to the people of Gaza. As Prime Minister Olmert emphasized at the outset of the military operation, "We will make every possible effort to avoid any humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The people of Gaza do not deserve to suffer because of the killers and murderers of the terrorist organizations." Since the operation commenced, more than 350 trucks loaded with food and medical supplies have entered Gaza. As we speak, supplies and donations continue to flow into Gaza from international organizations and state donors.
At the same time, Hamas continues to target crossings and to obstruct the provision of humanitarian relief to the Palestinian people.
Our region is facing crucial times that will shape its future. The international community must reject the agenda of the extremists and support that of the moderates calling for coexistence and the realization of two states living side by side in peace and security. Only two weeks ago, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1850, reaffirming the Annapolis process. Israel, for its part, will continue its efforts to pursue peace with the Palestinian people and its moderate leadership, while taking all necessary measures to protect its citizens from terrorism.