Belgium condemns Hamas leader’s assassination
22 March 2004
BRUSSELS – Belgium on Monday condemned Israel’s assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of radical Palestinian group Hamas.
Belgian Foreign Minister said the killing, which happened in Gaza early on Monday morning, was unacceptable.
“Actions like this that are outside the law can never be justified,” Michel said in a statement.
“And the fact that innocent civilians are once again among the victims makes the act even more unacceptable,” the statement added.
Michel expressed “deep concern” that the assassination would spark yet another cycle of violence in the Middle East and added that the prospects of an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had once again receded.
He nevertheless called on both Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
Michel’s comments echo those made by governments across the world on Monday.
EU foreign ministers jointly condemned what it called Israel’s “extra-judicial killing”.
UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw Secretary Jack Straw described the assassination as “unacceptable” and “unjustified”, and added that he did not think Israel would benefit from an attack on an old man in a wheelchair.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said the assassination would only “feed the spiral of violence” in the Middle East.
The Russian foreign ministry said it feared Israel’s action would cause “a new wave of violence”.
The Arab world was united in its vehement condemnation of the move.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called the killing a “vile crime”, Jordan’s Prime Minister Faycal al-Fayez branded the assassination “odious” while Iran said the move would lead to Israel’s “destruction.”
The United States was less forthright in its comments however.
US national security advisor Condoleeza Rice called for calm in the region after the attack but she stopped short of condemning Israel outright.
“Let’s remember that Hamas is a terrorist organisation and that Sheikh Yassin has himself personally, we believe, been involved in terrorist planning,” she said.
Israeli helicopter gunships attacked and killed the wheelchair-bound sheikh as he left dawn prayers at a Gaza mosque on Monday. Two bodyguards and one of Sheikh Yassin’s sons were also reportedly killed during the raid and at least 15 people were wounded.
The Israeli government believes Yassin masterminded a series of suicide bomb attacks on Israeli territory. After Monday’s attack, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon congratulated the army for killing the sheikh and said his government would continue to target Palestinian leaders it believes sponsor terrorism.
Hamas immediately swore it would avenge Yassin saying Sharon had “opened the gates of hell and nothing will stop us from cutting off his head”.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Belgian news