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Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 04:41 GMT 05:41 UK
Palestinians demand prosecution of Israel
Increasingly Israel has been pleading ignorance
The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations has demanded that Israel be brought before the world's new criminal court for the killing of 15 people in an air strike on Gaza City.

Nasser al-Kidwa
Al-Kidwa: Attack was an extra-judiciary execution
Addressing the UN Security Council, Nasser al-Kidwa said it was the first war crime to have been committed since the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened on 1 July.

The court, which can be mandated by the Security Council to investigate war crimes, should seek to bring the perpetrators of Monday's attack to justice, he said.

Arab nations called the emergency session of the Security Council - the UN's highest body - to debate the Israeli strike, which caused the deaths of a leading militant and 14 civilians, nine of them children.

The session ended without the adoption of a draft resolution calling on Israel to stop its "military aggression" against the Palestinian people, but the occasion was nonetheless used by representatives of both Arab and Western countries to voice condemnation of the Israeli strike.

Mistakes made

In the face of mounting criticism even from staunch allies like the United States, Israeli leaders have acknowledged that a mistake was made by striking such a densely populated area in order to eliminate a leading Sheikh Salah Shahada of the Hamas group.


Had we known the result beforehand, we would never have carried out the operation

Aaron Jacob
Deputy Israeli Ambassador
The attack saw an Israeli F-16 jet drop a one-tonne guided bomb on the apartment block where Mr Shahada was staying.

Only four of those killed were in the targeted house. The rest - including the children - were in neighbouring buildings.

Israel's representative at the Security Council, Aaron Jacob, said his country was forced to carry out military actions because the Palestinian Authority was failing to "root out terrorism".

He said he regretted the loss of innocent lives, and insisted that if the result of the raid had been known in advance, the army would never have carried out the operation.

His words echoed those of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, quoted by the Israeli press as saying that if Israel had known there were so many civilians in the building, another way would have been found to kill Mr Shahada.

But some members of the Security Council greeted such statements with disbelief.

Irish Ambassador John Ryan said an attack of this sort was bound to cause casualties. "To suggest anything otherwise is disingenuous," he added.

Israeli killed

About 300,000 Palestinians took to the streets for the funerals of the 15 people killed in the strike - many vowing to take revenge.

Officials from Hamas say the group was considering halting its attacks on Israelis when the strike on Gaza City occurred.

After the attack, Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi, a senior Hamas official, said: "I think the retaliation is coming and everything will be considered as a target for our assassins."

The cycle of violence in the region continued on Thursday morning, when gunmen opened fire on a car near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, killing one Israeli and seriously injuring another.

The incident occurred not far from the site of a bomb attack on an Israeli bus on 16 July, which resulted in nine deaths.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Greg Barrow reports from New York
"Many of the speeches were highly critical of the Israeli action in Gaza"
Israeli Consul General Alon Pinkas
"We are used to these judgements and condemnations"

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23 Jul 02 | Middle East
24 Jul 02 | Middle East
23 Jul 02 | Middle East
23 Jul 02 | Middle East
13 Jul 02 | Europe
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