A day after UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, admitted that it had discovered 20 Hamas rockets at one of its schools, Israel’s UN Ambassador said he was certain that more such facilities housed Hamas weaponry.
“Yesterday, UNRWA admitted that it mysteriously found 20 missiles in one of its schools,” Ambassador Ron Prosor said on Friday in an emergency Security Council session on Gaza. “I’m sure that if UNRWA takes the time to check its other facilities, it will discover that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hamas is using UN facilities to commit a double war crime by targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians.”
His comments came the morning after Israeli forces entered Gaza in an expansion of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge aimed at ending rocket fire against civilians.
In his extensive remarks, outlining Israel’s position on the conflict with Hamas, Prosor also said that it was time for the international community to face the consequences of its failed policies regarding the Gaza based terror group.
“For years, we told you about the thousands of rockets that Hamas was smuggling into Gaza. We were met with silence. Time and again we called on the international community to condemn the rocket fire and we were met with silence,” he said. “It is time for the international community to face the consequences of its inaction. Hamas used its foothold in Gaza to trample on the Palestinian people and build a terror base in Israel’s backyard. And now it sees an opportunity to do it again.”
After announcing the discovery of the rockets on Thursday, UNRWA said in a statement that it “strongly condemns the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations. This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law. This incident, which is the first of its kind in Gaza, endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA’s vital mission to assist and protect Palestine refugees in Gaza.”
The discovery of rockets was the second strike against the agency in as many days, after Prosor on Wednesday called for the immediate suspension of UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness for encouraging international journalists to interview a professor who justifies terrorism against civilians to bolster Hamas.
“Rather than denouncing Hamas’s targeting of innocent civilians, Mr. Gunness is shamelessly promoting an individual who shares Hamas’s morally reprehensible convictions,” Prosor said in a letter to Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General. “Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, deliberately embeds its military operations in residential areas and exploits its own civilian population as human shields. These actions constitute war crimes and should be condemned in no uncertain terms. In failing to do so, Mr. Gunness is ignoring Hamas’s abuse of the civilian population in Gaza and acting in opposition to UNRWA’s mandate.”
Read Ambassador Prosor’s full Security Council speech below:
In the face of terrorists kidnapping our children, we were left with no choice.
In the face of rockets raining down on our citizens, we were left with no choice.
In the face of jihadists tunneling under our borders, we were left with no choice.
A few hours ago, the Israel Defense Forces entered Gaza to restore a sustained quiet to the people of Israel while degrading Hamas’s terror capabilities. We did everything in our power to avoid this. Prime Minister Netanyahu made the courageous decision to accept every cease-fire offered – even as the people of Israel were under attack. But Hamas rejected every overture to restore the quiet.
This wasn’t what we wanted. We have sent our children – our sons and our daughters – to face an enemy who lives by violence and celebrates death. I want to be clear – our forces are fighting in Gaza, but they are not fighting the people of Gaza.
For years, the citizens of Israel have been the victims of unrelenting attacks perpetrated by a murderous terrorist group. Hamas has attacked us in our homes and schools and cafes and on our buses.
Stand now with Israel to prevent the next barrage of rockets, the next kidnapping, and the next suicide attack so that we may, once and for all, remove the threat of terrorism casting its dark shadow over the people of Israel.
The past month alone offers a glimpse into the unrelenting threats that Israel faces. We have been attacked on four fronts. Rockets have been launched from Syria, Lebanon, and Sinai and over 1,500 rockets have been fired by terrorists in Gaza.
Israel’s great restraint is being met with unrestrained aggression. For six hours on Tuesday, Israel held its fire. During that time, the world witnessed Hamas’s understanding of ‘cease-fires’ – Israel ceases and Hamas fires. Hamas didn’t fire one or two rockets; it battered Israel with 50 rockets. Every one sent a message loud and clear – Hamas is determined to wage war on the Jewish State.
Two days later, the UN asked for a limited humanitarian truce. Once again, Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed and proved that Israel is not interested in a war. As aid workers transferred goods to assist the people of Gaza, Hamas continued to defiantly launch rockets into Israel.
How did Hamas use the humanitarian cease-fire? It sent thirteen heavily armed terrorists through a terror tunnel towards Kibbutz Sufa with the sole purpose of committing a massacre.
This is the third time in the past two weeks that Hamas has used its tunnels to infiltrate Israel and tried to carry out attacks. And all the while, it is still launching hundreds of rockets.
For 10 days, life for five million Israelis has meant having just seconds to run for a bomb shelter and save their lives. Our largest cities – Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem – are being bombarded on a daily basis.
There is no country in the world that would tolerate such an assault on its citizens – and Israel should not be expected to either. We are acting solely to defend Israelis from constant terror attacks.
Throughout Operation Protective Edge, Israel has been committed to upholding international law. Our army is a moral army like no other in the world. It does not aspire to harm any innocent person. We are operating only against terrorist targets and genuinely regret any civilian loss.
In contrast, there is no red line that Hamas will not cross. It will stop at nothing and there is no depth that they will not sink to – they are even using ambulances filled with children to move their terrorists around Gaza.
There is no site that is off limits for Hamas – it is storing its weapons in family homes, launching rockets from mosques and establishing its headquarters in the basement of a Gaza hospital.
Yesterday, UNRWA admitted that it mysteriously found 20 missiles in one of its schools. I’m sure that if UNRWA takes the time to check its other facilities, it will discover that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hamas is using UN facilities to commit a double war crime by targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians.
From the safety of their luxury hotels in Qatar, Hamas leaders like Khaled Mashaal order room service with one hand and order Hamas to use Palestinians as human shields with the other.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. The Palestinian delegate to the UN Human Rights Council admitted as much, saying (and I quote): “The missiles that are now being launched against Israel, each and every missile constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets.”
I hope the Palestinian delegate will remember this when making threats against certain UN agencies.
Israel has been faced with a choice that no nation should have to make: refrain from responding and subject its civilians to rocket fire or engage with the terrorists and risk injuring civilians.
Hamas uses Palestinian casualties to fuel its propaganda machine. Hamas’s strategy is clear – it perpetuates the killing of its own people in the hope that the international community will place pressure on Israel to grant its demands.
Sadly, many people have fallen for their cynical campaign by describing the fighting as moral equivalency or a (quote unquote) “cycle of violence.”
All those who argue that both sides are equally to blame are playing into Hamas’s hand and sentencing the people of Gaza and Israel to further suffering. Ill-informed condemnations of Israel strengthen the hand of terrorists.
There is a clear difference between Israel and Hamas – the Jewish people believe in the value of life, while Hamas believes in the value of taking lives.
How many more Palestinians must fall victim before President Abbas finally breaks his partnership with Hamas?
Abbas is the president of the unity government that includes a murderous terror group. What exactly is this government united for? Obviously not for peace.
Even as alarms sound throughout Israel, some members of the international community are sounding false alarms here in the United Nations. They told us that as soon as Israel retreated to 1967 lines and dismantled its settlements, there would be peace. They insisted that the conflict was fueled by the so-called occupation.
Occupation? Does no one remember anything?
When I headed Israel’s Foreign Service in 2005, Israel turned every inch of Gaza over to the Palestinians. In the process, the world watched as we uprooted thousands of families from their homes and dismantled their businesses.
When we were done, there was not a soldier, not a settler, not a single Israeli left. All we left behind were greenhouses and other structures that would develop the Gaza economy and allow the Palestinian people to build a peaceful society. We opened border crossings and encouraged commerce because we wanted Gaza to succeed. We hoped that this would serve as a model for two societies to live side by side in peace.
But it didn’t. Hamas used the pretense of democracy to create a militant theocracy. First, it waged a civil war against Fatah and executed political opponents. Then it destroyed the greenhouses and businesses we left behind. Instead of using them to build economic institutions, it built a terrorist regime complete with miles of underground tunnels. And finally, it seized the funding that flowed from the international community to flood Gaza with weapons.
In each and every month for the past nine years, Hamas has fired rockets towards Israel’s towns and cities. Over time, it has expanded its arsenal of rockets from a few hundred to thousands. The weapons that they have today are more sophisticated and can reach farther into Israel than ever before.
Every few years, Hamas escalates its attacks by launching a massive offensive.
In 2008, over the course of three weeks, Hamas fired 800 rockets that could reach 1 million Israelis living in the area near Gaza.
In 2012, Hamas fired 1,200 rockets in a single week that could reach 3.5 million Israelis in southern and central Israel.
In the last two weeks, Hamas has fired 1,500 rockets that threaten 5 million Israelis – or 70% of our population – living throughout the country.
After each escalation, the international community brokers a cease-fire and Israel accepts it hoping that it will finally bring peace. After three rounds of major assaults and over 12,000 rockets in nine years, it has become clear that Hamas is not interested in bringing quiet to Gaza. It is employing the “Hudna” strategy. When Hamas finds itself on the verge of defeat, it agrees to a brief recess to rest, rearm, and resume aggressions.
For years, we told you about the thousands of rockets that Hamas was smuggling into Gaza. We were met with silence. Time and again we called on the international community to condemn the rocket fire and we were met with silence.
It is time for the international community to face the consequences of its inaction. Hamas used its foothold in Gaza to trample on the Palestinian people and build a terror base in Israel’s backyard. And now it sees an opportunity to do it again.
Hamas is using the unity government to export its terrorist capabilities from Gaza to Judea and Samaria. If Hamas is not stopped, it will mean more terror for Israel and more tragedy for the Palestinians.
The international community embraced the unity agreement between Fatah and a terror organization, believing it would bring us closer to peace. Does that sound logical to you?
How could embracing a terror group whose raison d’etre is the eradication of Israel bring about peace?
By now it should be clear that Hamas is using the cover of a political agreement to gain legitimacy for its extremist objectives. Following the establishment of the unity government, Hamas Minister Fathi Hammad declared (and I quote) that: “the whistling of bullets, the sound of bombs and missiles exploding…and the capture of [Israeli] soldiers” was “music to our ears.”
The danger couldn’t be clearer. By supporting the unity agreement, you are giving Hamas the opportunity to weave incitement, violence, and terror into the basic fabric of Judea and Samaria, just as it did in Gaza.
The citizens of Israel want to live in peace. We want to see our children grow up and grow old without ever running for a bomb shelter or putting on an army uniform.
I hope that someday we read about attacks on the Jewish people in history books rather than in newspapers. But that day has not yet come. For now, we are forced to wage a war against a terrorist group committed to our destruction.
Night has fallen in Israel. Rather than sleeping soundly in their beds, our sons and daughters are out there in the darkness standing guard over the people of Israel. In the Book of Psalms, King David says:
רַ֭בַּת שָֽׁכְנָה־לָּ֣הּ נַפְשִׁ֑י עִ֗ם שׂוֹנֵ֥א שָׁלֽוֹם:
אֲֽנִי־שָׁ֭לוֹם וְכִ֣י אֲדַבֵּ֑ר הֵ֗מָּה לַמִּלְחָמָֽה:
Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.
I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.
Mr. President – Israel was left with no choice. But each of you has a choice.
Stand against terrorism and stand for the right of people to live in peace.
Stand against the use of human shields and stand for human rights.
Stand against oppression and stand for the freedoms that we hold dear.
The leaders of many governments represented in this room have already expressed their support for Israel’s right to defend itself. We thank them for standing at our side at this important hour.
I ask the rest of you to join them.
I have with me a compass. I offer it to the international community in the hopes that it will guide you towards making the right decision. Stand for moral clarity, stand for good against evil, and stand for right against wrong.