Daily Archives: March 26, 2012

Israel reprimands Austria, Belgium over vote on UN human rights council


Austria and Belgium’s ambassadors were reprimanded Monday by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for being the only two European Union members to support the establishment of a UN investigative committee on West Bank settlements.

Both ambassadors arrived separately for a meeting with Deputy Director General for Europe Rafi Shotz, where they were presented with an official governmental complaint over their countries’ respective votes in the UN Human Rights Council.

Shotz told the ambassadors that Israel is disappointed in their countries handling of the situation, in light of the fact that the other EU member states in the council – Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Romania – refrained from voting, explaining that there are already mechanisms in place for overseeing such issues, and the establishment of another investigative body would be redundant.

“When you voted, you knew the outcome, as well of how one-sided the decision would be,” Shotz told the ambassadors. “You assisted in the politicization of the Human Rights Council and a decision that will only worsen the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassadors in Oslo and Bern was instructed to pass along as similar complaint to the Norwegian and Swiss foreign ministries, respectively, after they too voted to establish an investigative committee on the issue of the settlements.

The conversations with the ambassadors in Jerusalem came several hours after the Foreign Ministry decided to sever ties with the UN Human Rights Council, as well as with its chief commissioner Navi Pillay.

Rotating President of the Human Rights Council Laura Dupuy Lasserre, who also serves as Uruguay’s ambassador to the UN, called the decision “very unfortunate,” and added that she has yet to receive an official message from the Israeli ambassador.

“I have no doubt that it is in Israel’s interest to cooperate with council’s investigative committee so that it can express its position,” Dupuy Lasserre said.


Lieberman orders to sever ties with HRC

Senior state official says Israel will no longer appear before Human Rights Council, following its decision to probe settlements. HRC says decision ‘regrettable’; Hamas blasts it as ‘Zionist attempt to blackmail’ international institutions


Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has decided “to cut all ties with the UN’s Human Rights forum” following its decision to probe how settlements may be infringing on Palestinians’ rights, a senior state official said Monday.

“We maintained some kind of a relationship with them despite not being members in the council,” he said. “We will no longer appear before the council or even answer their calls. If they want to visit – we shall not assist them.”

Last week, the HRC passed a resolution ordering a first probe into how Israel’s West Bank settlements may be infringing on Palestinians’ rights. The council called on Israel to take steps like seizing weapons in order to prevent settler violence. It is sending a delegation to the territories to check the effect settlements have on the Palestinian people.

The Foreign Ministry said in response that the council was being used as a tool to further unilateral political steps instead of promoting human rights.

The Palestinians, the official added, were adopting a strategy of unilateralism aimed at avoiding an agreement. “They link everything to settlements,” he said. “Attempts to spearhead uncoordinated projects in Area C as well as efforts in the International Court of Justice are meant to impede any political move.”

The official added that the Palestinians’ aim is to achieve UN recognition using unilateral means.

Despite the bold move to sever ties with the UN council, the Foreign Ministry remains concerned about the political stalemate. Minister Lieberman is working on a series of unspecified steps to end the deadlock.

‘Israeli decision won’t stop HRC’

The UN’s Human Rights Council said Israel’s decision was “regrettable.” HRC President Laura Dupuy Lasserre said that the decision was “very unfortunate,” adding that she has yet to receive a formal notification of the matter.

“I have seen various reports in the Israeli media about this, but I have not received any official confirmation,” she said, 

“I have no doubt that it is in the interest of Israel to cooperate with the Human Rights Council on this investigative mission, not least so that it can explain its own policies and actions to the independent commissioners once they are appointed,” she said in a statement.

Asked to comment further, she said recent history showed Israel would not stop the fact-finding mission from gathering information by deciding not to cooperate with it, even if it could not physically gain access to the West Bank or Israel.

“The most recent example of refusal to cooperate is Syria, which did not permit either the Human Rights Council mandated Fact-finding Mission or the Commission of Inquiry to enter the country. On the other hand, in the case of the other two Commissions of Inquiry that took place in 2011, both Libya and Cote d’Ivoire did cooperate, and allowed the Commissioners to visit.”

Meanwhile, Hamas slammed Israel’s decision, calling it a “Zionist attempt to blackmail” international institutions that criticize its policies.   “This is proof of the vulnerability the Zionist regime is facing vis-à-vis human rights and the UN,” Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.

He further lauded the Human Rights Council’s decision to order its probe, saying it will “create a broad international consensus as to the oppression of the Palestinian people and the justice of their cause.”


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Gaza baby dies after respirator runs out of fuel

Associated Press

A Gaza man said Sunday his 5-month-old baby died after the generator powering his respirator ran out of fuel.

The baby, who was born with lymphatic disorder, had only a few months to live, said his father, Abdul-Rahim Helou, 27. But his parents miscalculated how much fuel a new generator needed to remove fluids that accumulated in his respiratory system, he said.

“If we were living in a normal country with electricity, I think his chances of living (longer) would have been better,” Helou said.

Gaza health official Bassem al-Qadri said the baby arrived dead at a Gaza City hospital on Friday night.

The baby’s death highlights the human cost Gaza’s 1.6 million residents are paying for 18-hour-a-day blackouts, triggered by a cutoff of Egyptian fuel.

Shortages have caused days-long lines for fuel at gas stations, a sharp reduction in public transportation and families left shivering in poorly built apartments during a wet and cold winter.

More than a year ago, Hamas decided to power Gaza’s only power plant with smuggled fuel from Egypt, rather than pay for more expensive Israeli fuel, as it had done in the past.

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Shin Bet security service confirms Toulouse gunman spent time in Israel

According to security officials, Mohamed Merah entered Israel after crossing the Allenby Bridge from Jordan in September 2010 where he was investigated by the Shin Bet,


An investigation by Israeli intelligence revealed on Monday that Mohamed Merah, the gunmen responsible for last week’s Toulouse shootings, spent time in Israel and Palestinian territories over a year and a half ago.

According to the Shin Bet, Merah entered Israel after crossing the Allenby Bridge from Jordan in September 2010. He was investigated by the Shin Bet. The investigation did not bring up any suspicious information, and he was allowed to enter the country.

Furthermore, The Shin Bet investigation could not confirm a claim by the French intelligence that Merah was arrested in Israel with a knife.

Merah stayed in Israel for a total of three days, during which it is unknown whether he was involved in any terror-related activity.

Security sources told Haaretz that Merah visited Israel before his stay in Afghanistan or Pakistan, thus there was no information that could indicate whether or not he constituted a security threat.

The revelation comes a day after a French judge placed Merah’s brother under formal investigation. Abdelkader Merah is set tobe moved to a prison and remain there for the duration of an inquiry into suspected complicity in a spate of fatal shootings.

A legal source told Reuters that four anti-terrorist judges would lead an inquiry into gunman Mohamed Merah’s killing of three Jewish children, a rabbi and three soldiers, and investigate his elder brother for complicity.

“He has been placed under formal investigation in line with the prosecutor’s requirements,” the source said.

Mohamed Merah was shot dead by a police sniper on Thursday as he scrambled out of his apartment window, firing a pistol, after special force commandos stormed his home in the southern city of Toulouse to break a more than 30-hour siege.

He earlier told police negotiators he had carried out the three shootings in Toulouse and the surrounding area to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and protest against the French army’s role in Afghanistan. He said he regretted there were not more victims.

Since his death, the focus of the investigation has switched to Abdelkader, 29, who was already known to security services for helping smuggle Jihadist militants into Iraq in 2007. He is suspected of playing a role in providing logistical support to his brother.

Abdelkader had been in detention since dawn on Wednesday as police in Toulouse and then Paris questioned him. Being placed under formal investigation is the next legal step after being held in custody and means that a criminal trial is likely.


Israel confirms questioning Toulouse terrorist in 2010

Defense sources confirm Mohammed Merah stopped in Israel en route to Afghanistan in September 2010, aroused suspicion of border officers but eventually allowed to enter country.

Sources in the Defense establishment confirmed on Monday that Toulouse terrorist Mohammed Merah had visited Israel.

According to examinations conducted recently, Merah, who murdered a rabbi and three children in a Jewish school last week, stopped in Israel en route to Afghanistan in September 2010.

Defense sources confirmed that the terrorist entered Israel from Jordan via the Allenby crossing. He was questioned after arousing the suspicion of border officers but was eventually allowed to enter Israel after it was determined he wasn’t involved in terrorist activity.

Merah entered Israel as a tourist with a French passport. The sources had no knowledge of reports that he had been caught with a knife in Jerusalem, as claimed by a French minister last week. Merah left Israel after three days and returned to Jordan.   Meanwhile, French newspaper Le Parisien revealed additional details from the terrorist’s exchange with French police during the siege on his house. He told the officers that a day prior to the raid, he had noticed three suspicious cars parked outside his building. He also claimed he was being followed.

It was also reported that a day after the school shooting, where he shot to death four people, he drove to his hometown and played soccer.

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