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Israel rejects UN's deploring Gaza deaths

Written by: Staff
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Jerusalem, Nov 19: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dismissed on Sunday a UN General Assembly resolution that deplored a deadly Israeli artillery strike in Gaza, saying the forum should aim its criticism at Palestinian militants.

The assembly on Friday passed overwhelmingly a motion by Arab states over the November 8 shelling that killed 19 civilians in the town of Beit Hanoun. The resolution also urged a UN probe and an immediate Israeli troop pullout from the Gaza Strip.

''I have no doubt that it is not the State of Israel that should be answering questions about the harming of civilians, especially after we voiced deep regret at the harm done,'' Olmert told his cabinet in broadcast remarks.

He said Palestinian gunmen and rocket crews were to blame for the violence in Gaza, describing them as ''striking civilians as a methodical and consistent policy, without those who preach morality and roll their eyes finding it fit to condemn them''.

Israel quit Gaza in 2005 after 38 years of occupation, but resumed military incursions after Palestinian gunmen -- some from factions which advocate the Jewish state's destruction -- abducted a soldier in June and stepped up rocket salvoes.

Since the military offensive resumed in Gaza around 350 Palestinians have been killed, about half of them civilians, and four Israelis, three of them soldiers.

The barrage on Beit Hanoun, which Israel said resulted from a sighting error, drew a global outcry.

Qatar, the only Arab member of the UN Security Council, drafted a resolution that would have condemned Israel in the powerful forum, but it was vetoed by the United States.

Israel Radio quoted Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as saying Friday's resolution in the General Assembly, which was largely symbolic, showed pro-Palestinian nations were ''letting off steam'' after the US veto in the Security Council.

But the head of the world's biggest Islamic bloc, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, said yesterday the UN vote showed Muslim countries had influence and they should use it ''to stop Israel acting like a country above the law''.

INQUIRY

The General Assembly resolution called for the immediate cessation of all acts of violence by both the Palestinian and Israeli sides and asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan to set up a fact-finding mission to look into the attack on Beit Hanoun. Israeli officials had no immediate word on whether they would cooperate with such an investigation. Israel has long accused the General Assembly, where emerging nations often vote in blocs, of being biased against it.

''I am not sure that Israel will cooperation with it (the probe).

We don't need the United Nations to check what happened,'' Dan Gillerman, Israel's UN ambassador, said in an Army Radio interview yesterday.

In the Israeli town of Sderot today, Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza wounded three people, one of them seriously, medical officials and residents said.

Right-wing politicians have called on the government to order a major offensive against gunmen in Gaza who have stepped up rocket attacks. Rockets killed a woman and wounded several other residents in Sderot last Wednesday.

Mr Olmert said at the time that the rocket fire could not be stopped in ''one fell swoop'', appearing to rule out a massive military push into the strip.

But Defence Minister Amir Peretz said today that Israel would target Palestinian deemed responsible for the salvoes.

''Those who try to harm us will pay a dear price. There will be no compromise on this,'' Peretz told reporters.

REUTERS 

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