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Hamas Attack Hits Near UN Commissioner

In the Negev Desert town of Sderot, Israel, Qassam rockets struck just a few hundred yards from the UN’s chief human rights representative during her visit. Having just arrived from a visit to Beit Hanun in Gaza, where she loudly and roundly condemned Israeli attacks, her car was met by angry Israelis as it made its way to the nearby site of the rocket strikes. In the Qassam attack, one Israeli was critically injured with shrapnel wounds to the head and a second rocket started a fire at a factory. The evacuated workers were outside as the UN representative’s motorcade pulled up to observe.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Canadian Louise Arbour, had earlier visited Beit Hanun in Gaza and condemned ‘massive’ violations of human rights there by Israel. “The violation of human rights I think in this territory is massive,” Arbour said in Gaza. She added, “The call for protection has to be answered. We cannot continue to see civilians, who are not the authors of their own misfortune, suffer to the extent of what I see.”

Angered by what many Israelis deem a pervasive anti-Semitic UN approach, as Arbour made her way to Sderot, she was met with a less than warm reception by local residents of what is increasingly becoming described as a ghost town. Residents of Sderot have been relocating elsewhere due to the onslaught of Palestinian Qassam rockets. More than 25 rockets are reported to have been launched from Gaza into Israel in the Monday overnight alone.

But, when the rockets landed during her visit, the ‘less than warm reception’ turned to visible anger, as some Israelis began to pelt her car with stones and chant slogans. The rockets were fired by Hamas’ Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, who said that they did not know Arbour would be in Sderot at the time. Certainly had they known, Hamas would not have fired within eyeshot of their recently departed perceived defender.

Though not directly from her, Arbour’s accompanying UN spokesman, Christopher Gunness, said that Arbour had pressed the Palestinian Authority sternly in meetings with Mahmoud Abbas regarding the launching of the Qassam rockets on Israeli towns. He said also that “The position of the High Commissioner is that Qassam rockets are illegal under international law” because of their inaccuracy.

Shortly after the Qassam attack on the civilians of Sderot, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights did not condemn the attack with the conviction displayed in Beit Hanun. Instead, Arbour expressed sympathy for the family of the critically wounded Israeli saying, “I want to … say how much I share their sense of hopelessness and vulnerability and frustration at being so exposed.” But the reaction of the Israelis in Sderot indicates that they are not interested in sympathy or being anointed by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights as victims.

Arbour suggested that Israel was committing war crimes when she said, “Well, it (Israel) has a responsibility to defend its citizens, but can only do so by legal means. It has to do so in line with international law, including international humanitarian law, but it has a primary responsibility to protect its citizens and the people under its authority.”

Israelis are frustrated and angry that they are forced to accept building reinforced student dormitories in Sderot in defense from the relentless Qassam attacks. This growing and increasingly vocal anger and frustration contributed to the recent decision to send the IDF into Beit Hanun in attempts to quell the attacks. It is also the source of the angry reception the UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights received in Sderot as she loudly condemned Israeli action as “massive violations” of human rights, while seemingly left to a spokesman to define the Qassam rockets as illegal weapons, saying nothing of the actions taken by terrorists intentionally targeting civilians with them.