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Gaza-Israel Escalation: End Violence Now, Then Work To End Occupation, Say UN Experts


GENEVA (18 May 2021) – UN human rights experts* called
on the international community to demand an immediate end to
the violence in Gaza and Israel, and to act decisively to
address the underlying source of the conflict: the denial of
collective and individual rights of the Palestinian
people.

“This most recent violence has a
depressingly familiar pattern to it,” said the experts.
“Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza exchange
missiles and rockets following dispossession and the denial
of rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, with
Israel’s far greater firepower inflicting far higher death
tolls and injuries and a much larger scale of property
destruction.”

As of Monday, at least 211
Palestinians in Gaza, including at least 59 children, have
been killed, along with 10 Israelis, including two children.
At least 10 Palestinians in the West Bank protesting the
violence in Gaza have also been killed by Israeli security
forces. Almost 40,000 Palestinians have been displaced from
their home, sheltering in UN compounds.

“The firing
by Israel of missiles and shells into heavily populated
areas of Gaza – particularly with the rising civilian toll
and property destruction – constitute indiscriminate and
disproportionate attacks against civilians and civilian
property. These attacks likely violate the laws of war and
constitute a war crime,” the experts
said.

“Similarly, the firing of rockets by
Palestinian armed groups deliberately or recklessly into
Israeli urban areas likely violate international law and may
well amount to a war crime. Armed groups in Gaza should also
be held to account in their failure to take adequate
precautions to protect the civilian population and civilian
objects under their control against the effects of
attacks.

“Both sides must strictly adhere to their
responsibilities under international law, especially that of
proportionality and necessity. There is no justification,
including counter-terrorism or self-defence, to justify a
wholesale abdication for the obligations of Parties to
strictly obey international humanitarian law. The actions of
both Israel and the Palestinian armed groups should be a
matter for the International Criminal Court to
investigate.”

In particular, Israel’s duties as
the occupying power require it to allow humanitarian aid –
including food, fuel and medical supplies – to enter
unhindered into Gaza, the experts said. New reports indicate
that fuel supplies in Gaza are almost completely
depleted.

The experts condemned the Israeli attack on
a civilian apartment building which housed the offices of
several international news agencies. “Violence or
threatened violence against journalists, particularly those
reporting in a conflict zone, breaches the freedom of
expression and the right of the media to report
unhindered,” they said.

Gaza has been under a
comprehensive 14-year-old blockade by Israel. Recent
Secretaries General of the United Nations have called this a
form of collective punishment, a prohibited act under the
Fourth Geneva Convention.

“The world should be
deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian
conditions in Gaza,” said the human rights experts.
“Most alarmingly, its health care system is flat on its
back. It has been starved of equipment, medicines and
trained staff. It is buckling under the ravages of the
COVID-19 pandemic. And now, it is trying to treat the more
than 2,000 Palestinians injured during this latest
violence.”

The experts noted with deep regret that
the international community has not acted with more unity
and more success to bring an immediate end to the violence.
In particular, the inability of the UN Security Council to
even issue a statement after three meetings is an abdication
of duty. They observed that the United States has failed to
employ its special relationship with Israel, with whom it
enjoys a close military and diplomatic alliance, to enforce
an immediate ceasefire.

“The underlying reality is
that there is an occupying power, with one of the best
equipped militaries in the world, ruling over an occupied
people who have the right to be freed from an unwanted and
protracted alien regime,” they said. “This struggle is
deeply unequal. The 54-year-old Israeli occupation –
already the longest occupation in the modern world – is
becoming even more entrenched and even more abusive of
fundamental human rights.

“After the last missile of
this current violence has been fired, and after the tears
from the last funeral have been shed, accountability must
rise to the top of the agenda of the United Nations. The
international community must ensure that Israel, the
occupying power, complies fully with the more than 30 UN
Security Council resolutions and the hundreds of General
Assembly resolutions of which it is in breach.

“The
enemies of accountability are impunity and
exceptionalism,” the experts said. “It is folly to
expect that the justice, peace, equality and security which
both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews have a right to
enjoy can be achieved without imposing a meaningful cost on
Israel, the occupying power, to fully end its illegal
occupation.

“A brand new diplomatic playbook is
needed, which leaves behind realpolitik. A rights-based
approach must guide the diplomacy of the international
community to secure a just and durable
solution.”

ENDS

*The experts: Mr.
Michael Lynk,
Special
Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the
Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.

Mr. Clément Voule,
Special
Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and
of association
. Mr. Morris
Tidball-Binz
,
Special
Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary
executions
. Fionnuala Ní
Aoláin
,
Special
Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights
while countering terrorism
. Ms.
Koumbou Boly Barry
, Special Rapporteur on
the right to
education
;

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