UN Security Council Meets in Closed Door Session on Jericho

The United Nations Security Council met in a closed-door session on Wednesday to consider Qatar's demand to condemn Israel for attacking the Jericho prison which held a cabinet minister's killers.

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Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 14:17

Representing several Arab nations, Qatar asked the United Nations Security Council to condemn Israel for its operation in which it captured the killers of former Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi. The threat of a U.S. veto lurked in the background as world leaders met to decide if the matter should go to a vote.

Israel's Ambassador to the U.N., Dan Gillerman played down the significance of the meeting, according to Ynet news service. "An informal discussion that was merely a waste of time took place," Gillerman said. "The Security Council has more important issues to deal with," he added.

Assassination mastermind and terrorist leader Ahmed Sa’adat was incarcerated at the Jericho prison with four other murderers from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The group also included Fuad Shobaki, accused of funding a massive illegal shipment of weapons to the Palestinian Authority in 2002.

The statement drafted by Qatari Ambassador Abdulaziz Al-Nasser represented several Arab countries and would have asked the Security Council to condemn “Israel’s violent incursion” on Tuesday.

The Qatari statement would have demanded that Israel “return the situation to that which existed prior to the Israeli military attack”, giving back the prisoners it captured in Tuesday’s operation.

Israel attacked after international monitors from the U.S. and Britain left the facility, citing severe security risks. Both Britain and the U.S. said they had complained many times about the security conditions at the prison.

Guards allowed inmates to use cell phones and did not enforce rules limiting phone calls and visitors to the facility. Britain's Foreign Secretary charged that the observers had to work from the roof, rather than inside the prison.

By Tuesday, American monitors had already left. British observers quit their posts shortly thereafter, just minutes before the Israeli operation began.

Approximately 76 prisoners were freed by Israel within hours after the operation ended, when brief questioning revealed that they were not terror activists. Another 200-plus were transferred to Israeli jails, including Ze’evi’s killers.

Israel had warned the PA numerous times that it would capture or kill Sa’adat if he left the prison a free man. Nonetheless, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas last week told a group of PFLP supporters that he had “no problem” in releasing Sa’adat but would not guarantee his safety.

The siege resulted in major damage to the prison, but relatively few casualties. There were no Israeli injuries or deaths.