Concerned at Israeli military killings of Palestinian civilians, Annan urges lawful conduct

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Voicing concern over Israel’s recent military attacks which have killed a number of Palestinian civilians, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged the country to abide by its obligations under international law.

‘The Secretary-General strongly deplores the acts of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory,’ a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement released in New York. ‘He is especially concerned at the recent killing of a number of Palestinian civilians, including several children, as a result of Israeli military attacks.’

Of particular concern, according to the statement, was the fact that incidents have occurred during a period of relative calm marked by efforts to implement a security agreement and to strengthen international assistance to achieve a peaceful settlement.

Reminding the Israeli Government of its obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians, Mr. Annan welcomed the investigation announced by the Israeli Defence Minister and voiced hope that those responsible would be held accountable.

On a related matter, the Secretary-General was also ‘gravely concerned’ about the Israel Supreme Court’s decisions authorizing the transfer of two relatives of a Palestinian accused of organizing attacks against Israel, spokesman Fred Eckhard said, noting that those transfers were strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law and could have ‘very serious’ political and security implications.

The spokesman recalled that the Secretary-General has consistently condemned suicide bombings and upheld Israel’s right to defend itself, but stressed that self-defence could not justify measures that amounted to collective punishments. Mr. Annan again called on Israel to adhere to its obligations under the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention and to eschew actions that were inconsistent with international humanitarian law.

In another development, Mr. Eckhard announced today that the report submitted to the Secretary-General by his Personal Humanitarian Envoy, Catherine Bertini, on her recent trip to the Middle East is being transmitted to both Israeli and Palestinian officials. That report will also be provided to members of the Security Council.

The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

PRESS RELEASE
SG/SM/8364

Secretary-General Strongly deplores acts of violence in Occupied Palestinian Territory

Also Expresses Grave Concern about Israeli Supreme Court Decisions

Authorizing Transfer of Relatives of Palestinians Accused of Organizing Attacks

The Secretary-General strongly deplores the acts of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory. He is especially concerned at the recent killing of a number of Palestinian civilians, including several children, as a result of Israeli military attacks. It is particularly distressing that these incidents have occurred during a period of relative calm and while efforts are made to implement a security agreement and to strengthen international assistance to a peaceful settlement. The Secretary-General wishes to remind the Government of Israel of its obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians. He welcomes the investigation announced by the Israeli Defence Minister and hopes that those responsible for these acts will be held accountable.

The Secretary-General is also gravely concerned about the Israel Supreme Court’s decisions authorizing the transfer of two relatives of a Palestinian accused of organizing attacks against Israel. Such transfers are strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law and could have very serious political and security implications.

While the Secretary-General has consistently condemned suicide bombings and upheld Israel’s right to defend itself, he wishes to stress that self-defence cannot justify measures that amount to collective punishments.

He once again calls on the Government of Israel to adhere to its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) and not to take actions that are inconsistent with international humanitarian law.

Press Release, SG/SM/8364