Friday, January 09, 2009

The Tunnel Vision Of UNSC Resolution 1860

Left: Avi Pilchick (seated, foreground in white shirt) observes military operations' bombardment in the Gaza Strip along with other Israeli civilians from a hilltop in Sderot, Israel as they sip on Pepsi. (Photo: Shashank Bengali / MCT)

Avi Pilchick (seated, foreground in white shirt) observes military operations in the Gaza Strip along with other Israeli civilians from a hilltop in Sderot, Israel. |

Security Council Calls For Immediate, Durable Fully Respected Ceasefire In Gaza
Leading To Full Withdrawal Of Israeli Forces
Resolution 1860 (2009)
Adopted by 14 in Favor, Abstention (US);
Also Calls for Unimpeded Humanitarian Assistance,
Welcomes Egyptian Initiative

"The Security Council,

“Recalling all of its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1850 (2008),

“Stressing that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967 and will be a part of the Palestinian state,

“Emphasizing the importance of the safety and well-being of all civilians,

“Expressing grave concern at the escalation of violence and the deterioration of the situation, in particular the resulting heavy civilian casualties since the refusal to extend the period of calm; and emphasizing that the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations must be protected,

“Expressing grave concern also at the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza,

“Emphasizing the need to ensure sustained and regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings,

“Recognizing the vital role played by UNRWA in providing humanitarian and economic assistance within Gaza,

“Recalling that a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved by peaceful means,

“Reaffirming the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders,

“1. Stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza;

“2. Calls for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment;

“3. Welcomes the initiatives aimed at creating and opening humanitarian corridors and other mechanisms for the sustained delivery of humanitarian aid;

“4. Calls on Member States to support international efforts to alleviate the humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza, including through urgently needed additional contributions to UNRWA and through the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee;

“5. Condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism;

“6. Calls upon Member States to intensify efforts to provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a durable ceasefire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained re‑opening of the crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel; and in this regard, welcomes the Egyptian initiative, and other regional and international efforts that are under way;

“7. Encourages tangible steps towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation including in support of mediation efforts of Egypt and the League of Arab States as expressed in the 26 November 2008 resolution, and consistent with Security Council resolution 1850 (2008) and other relevant resolutions;

“8. Calls for renewed and urgent efforts by the parties and the international community to achieve a comprehensive peace based on the vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace with secure and recognised borders, as envisaged in Security Council resolution 1850 (2008), and recalls also the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative;

“9. Welcomes the Quartet’s consideration, in consultation with the parties, of an international meeting in Moscow in 2009;

“10. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

Gravely concerned by the deepening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and the resulting heavy civilian casualties “since the refusal to extend the period of calm” between Israel and Hamas, the Security Council this evening stressed the urgency of and called for an “immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza”.

Adopting resolution 1860 (2009) by a vote of 14 in favor with the United States abstaining, the Council also expressed its grave concern at the escalation of violence and emphasized that Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations must be protected in the densely packed territory that has been the theatre of a deadly 13-day conflict between Israel Defense Forces and armed Hamas militants.

The measure, which recalls that “a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved by peaceful means,” capped days of intense ministerial-level negotiations at United Nations Headquarters after Arab leaders and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas flew to New York for urgent meetings with United Nations Secretary‑General Ban Ki‑moon and Security Council diplomats to craft a binding resolution to end the fighting, which began on 27 December, when Israel launched a major offensive in Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks.

Immediately following the vote, Secretary‑General Ban said, after two weeks of escalating violence and suffering in Gaza and southern Israel, he was heartened and relieved at the adoption of a resolution to end the tragic situation. The Council’s action signalled the will of the international community and must be fully respected by the parties. He stressed, however, that more would be needed, and a political way forward was required to deliver long-term security and peace. “My visit to the region next week will focus on helping to ensure that the ceasefire is implemented, that urgent humanitarian assistance reaches those in need and encouraging the diplomatic efforts currently under way,” he added.

The resolution sets out urgent tasks for the international community and calls on United Nations Member States to intensify their efforts to provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza to sustain a durable ceasefire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition, and to ensure the sustained reopening of crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Calling for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance within Gaza, including food, fuel and medical treatment, the resolution recognizes the role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in providing such assistance, and emphasizes the need to ensure “sustained and regular flow of goods and people through Gaza crossings”.

The resolution welcomes the regional and international efforts under way to end the crisis, including the Egyptian initiative crafted by President Hosni Mubarak and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy, which, among other things, calls for a temporary ceasefire followed by talks on how to control the border crossings, as well as how to achieve reconciliation among Palestinian factions.

Explaining the United States decision to abstain, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that, while her Government had agreed with the goals and objectives of the resolution: “The United States thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation efforts in order to see what this resolution might have been supporting.” Still, she said, the United States believed that, by adopting the resolution, the Council had provided a road map for a sustainable, durable peace in Gaza.

Riyad Al-Maliki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority, said that adoption of the resolution had been delayed several days, despite the deepening humanitarian crisis and heavy loss of lives of Palestinian civilians. Some 700 Palestinians had been killed and close to 3,000 had been wounded. Nevertheless, Israel must now end its war against the Palestinian people and withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip. It must also lift the closure of borders and ensure humanitarian access to the people in need. “The violence must cease so that […] we can rebuild what the brutal Israeli war machine had destroyed in Gaza,” he declared.

Left: A tower of white smoke rose from Gaza framed with black sooth after another Israeli bombardment. A half-dozen Israelis, perched on a dusty hilltop, gazed at the scene like cheering armchair military strategists. "They are doing good," Pilchick, 20, said of Israeli forces battling Palestinian militants in Gaza, "but they can do more."

Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev told the Council that Israel had withdrawn from Gaza in 2005 hoping it would never have to return. However, after eight years of continuous rocket attacks by the Hamas terrorist organization, Hamas’ refusal to extend the period of calm, and its smuggling of weapons during that period, Israel had been left with no choice but to act in self-defence. “Responsibility for the current hostilities lies squarely with Hamas,” she said, adding that the international community must focus its attention on the cessation of Hamas’ terrorist activities, including the total cessation of rocket fire and smuggling, in order to be durable and to allow the possibility of lasting peace.

David Miliband, Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, whose country sponsored the text, told the Council that statistics did not do justice to the situation in Gaza, “but the word ‘crisis’, which is sometimes overused, is wholly appropriate.” His Government had been calling for an immediate ceasefire from the very beginning of the conflict and tonight, at last, the United Nations was speaking clearly with one voice. The job now was to turn the words of the resolution into a reality, he said.

The Tunnel Vision Of UNSC 1860 - Arms Control and lasting Peace

Left: Israel has destroyed some tunnels, such as this in Gaza

The US abstention to UNSC 1860 is a signal to Israel to continue its invasion of Gaza, while diplomatic efforts continue to extract the most favorable terms for "the Jewish state." The key component would be establishing border controls to halt arms smuggling by Hamas, as demanded by Israel. But as is widely known, arms are smuggled into Gaza through tunnels. How would these transient mechanisms be patrolled by an envisioned enforcement force is unclear and has not been outlined in current documentation. Even if these tunnels were destroyed as called for, how would subsequent tunnels or acquisitions through other means including smuggling by sea and through the Rafah itself be prevented?

A Hamas representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, said that the group was considering the proposal, along with other ideas presented by Turkey and by Arab states.
"We are still studying the Egyptian proposal and I haven't said that we have rejected it. But we don't discuss the presence of monitors or international troops or forces to protect the occupation," he told Al-Arabiya television.

In a potential warning sign, Hamdan complained that "the initiatives mostly favor Israel."
Another proposal forwarded by Libya was rejected because it did not contain a key provision, which call for monitors to destroy tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle arms from Egypt.

It should be noted that Egypt has been reluctant to take on responsibility for border security and prevention of arms smuggling because it cautions that the nation may be held responsible for breaches of the control regime. Egypt has been maligned by many for not opening the Rafah crossing including General Secretary of Hizballah, Hassan Nasrallah and yours truly. However, upon further inquiry I've discovered that Egypt did as much as it could in negative action to allow Gaza to obtain goods. It would have taken only a small military operation for Egypt's forces to discover and destroy the tunnels or take other legal measures to halt the trade. They did not assail the market allowing it to flourish.

It would seem that Israel's borders are increasingly being guarded by international forces such as the UNFIL force in southern Lebanon. Israel will want such a force on the Gaza-Egypt border as consideration for accepting a truce. This force must be more robust in terms of its duties and mandate than UNIFIL, which remains an observer force with minimal engagment power. Turkey has been asked to put together an international force for Gaza,

Hamas' main goals are the cessation of the siege and blockade, resumption of free travel and trade for its people. If these aims can be met in a comprehensive truce plan Hamas would have fared well even with the devastating losses Gaza suffered in the two week onslaught by Israeli military forces. Hamas could then find resourceful means to import or manufacture weaponry to maintain a certain level of deterrence to Israeli aggression.

US army engineers have been assisting Egyptian troops in detecting the existing tunnels in the Rafah area. It is apparent that logistics derived from these operations along with IDF surveillance data are being used by the Israeli air force to destroy some of these tunnels.
"There has been a concerted effort for some time by the Egyptians to go after some of these tunnels -- detect them, block them, eliminate them -- and I think the Army Corps of Engineers has provided some technical advice on how to do so," said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.

The Army Corps of Engineers role was providing "strictly technical advice," he said.

Israel launched air raids Wednesday, January 7, 2009, on the Palestinian side of Rafah, targeting at least 25 houses alleged to contain some of the 1,500 tunnels under the border that serve as the supply lifeline for Hamas. Israel will want enough time during its war on Gaza to dominate the border region and establish some sort of buffer dead zone. Otherwise any patrol apparatus erected by proposed forces will be cicumvented and ultimately become futile. Israel often expresses this type of futility by making sonic booms with its jet fighters over Lebanon territory.

The AFP news agency quoted witnesses as saying that dozens of Israeli tanks had entered southern Gaza and were heading towards Rafah presumably to carry out the tunnel vision.

One of the ideas being discussed by the Israelis, Egyptians and Americans is to have a US presence on the Egyptian side of the border which would assist the Egyptians in uncovering the openings of the tunnels on their side of the frontier. The US muscle would come with electronic equipment to detect the tunnels and then blow them up in controlled explosions.

The Americans would also actively help the Egyptians in blocking the smuggling chain, which starts in Sudan, passes through Egypt and the Sinai desert and ends up in Gaza, senior Israeli security officials said. The Israeli have been pummeling the Rafah tunnels, which is the final destination of this international trade with bunker busting one-ton and two-ton bombs provided to it the US government.

Israeli fighters jets have bombed the tunnels again and again. By day 13 of the offensive war, the Israeli military said at least 150 tunnels have been destroyed. Many, if not hundreds, however remain intact: According to Israeli estimates the number of tunnels before the offensive stood at 200 - 300. According to Rafah residents and Hamas there were as many as 700 - 1,500. Since the Israeli imposed blockade some two years ago, almost everything that cannot be produced in Gaza come through this lifeline network of tunnels. Hundreds of families have been made homeless in Rafah in the Israeli plight to eradicate the tunnels.

On Thursday, January 9, 2009, thousands of Palestinians fled their homes in the southern Gaza Strip as Israeli forces bombarded Rafah after dropping leaflets to warn local residents about an impending blitz. Witnesses said that homes, suspected as smuggling tunnels and a mosque were hit in the area along the Egyptian border. The leaflets warned that that the Israeli military "will bomb the area due to its use by terrorists to tunnel and stock up" on weapons.

Nevertheless, unless the blockade is lifted the trade will start again. The tunnels have been destroyed before. The obliteration of the tunnels will disrupt the flow of trade between Egypt and Gaza however, it may not stop it. Israel had a similarly constrictive end game dream in its war on Lebanon in 2006. UNSC 1701 did not prohibit the Lebanese resistance from replenishing its stockpile of weaponry--it did not work. Therefore, it is doubtful that the Israelis will succeed in this fervent destructive adventure, blitzII or Cast Lead, unto Gaza--to censure its people from obtaining the objects necessary for their survival and resisting the brutal occupation. The wide ranging purveyance of death and destruction on Gaza and the far seeing aims of the Israeli government could may be compromised by this uncertain tunnel vision.


Blogger Merche Pallarés said...

Wonderful articles. I keep reading and learning. Thank you. Hugs, M.

January 9, 2009 at 8:11 AM  

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