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Ambassador: Hamas leader was 'doctor of death'

U.N. resolution would condemn 'extrajudicial executions'

Israeli representative Dan Gillerman, left, and Palestinian representative Nasser Al-Kidwa addressed the U.N. Security Council Monday.

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United Nations

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations gave a spirited defense Monday of the weekend killing of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, calling him a "doctor of death" who did nothing to advance the Mideast peace process.

The speech by Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman came as the U.N. Security Council considered a resolution condemning Israel for the Saturday killing.

"He was a radical terrorist leader that joyfully and publicly celebrated the murder of innocent men, women and children, sought to destroy any peace initiative and called for the destruction of Israel by force of arms," Gillerman said.

"He believed that violence was the 'only option.' "

He added: "Rantisi was a trader in death, a doctor of death, and no one should be surprised that he paid the price for it."

Rantisi, who trained as a pediatrician, was killed in an Israeli helicopter attack on his car in Gaza City -- just four weeks after his predecessor, Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was killed in a similar fashion. Isarel and the United States have labeled Hamas a terrorist organization.

Rantisi's killing sparked outrage in the Arab world, and tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in protest.

The assassination came just days after President Bush endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan under which Israel would unilaterally pull out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank, but would keep certain settlements in the West Bank. (Full story)

Bush's endorsement sparked anger from many Palestinians and other Arab leaders.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the killing of Rantisi was a breach of international law and called on Israel to end its assassinations.

"The only way to halt an escalation of violence is for Israelis and Palestinians to work towards a viable negotiating process aimed at a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement," Annan said.

A draft of the resolution before the Security Council condemns "the extrajudicial executions recently committed by Israel, the occupying power, as illegal, unjustified and counterproductive."

Palestinian anger

Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Palestinian observer to the United Nations, blasted Israel for its "belligerent occupation" of Gaza and the West Bank.

He said the Security Council must take action to "bring an end to the cycle of violence and bloodshed."

"The deliberate, excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force, including the extrajudicial executions, being carried out by Israel against the Palestinian civilian population constitutes a grave breach of international law," Al-Kidwa said.

He also said any parallels drawn between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the global war on terrorism is "inappropriate and completely erroneous."

"Israel's constant attempts to draw such parallels and to exploit the international fight against terrorism must be rejected," Al-Kidwa said.

Gillerman went on to say, "It is no good to affirm in theory Israel's right to defend itself in this conflict, but then in practice seek to deny us the right to specifically target those illegal combatants directly responsible."

Britain's deputy ambassador, Adam Thomson, said his nation shares the European Union's condemnation of the killing of Rantisi, and urged all parties to try to get the Mideast road map back on track.

The United States, which has veto power as one of the five permanent members of the council, indicated it has no plans to vote for the resolution.

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