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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

UN rights chief slams Israeli blockade of Gaza
Deirdre Jurand at 7:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Addressing a special session [official website] of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] said [transcript] Wednesday that Israel's policy of collective punishment, disproportionate use of force and targeted killings, coupled with the Palestinian militant practice of indiscriminate firings of bombs and rockets, has led to the current crisis in the Gaza Strip. Israel had compounded the situation, she said, by blockading Gaza, preventing citizens from getting basic necessities such as food, gas, water, electricity and medicine. Arbour stressed that sovereign states have a primary duty to protect their citizens from war crimes and other crimes against humanity, but agreed with the Syrian and Palestinian representatives that international enforcement through processes such as independent investigation of international law violations is also necessary under the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit [text, PDF].

Syrian and Palestinian representatives had requested [meeting order, DOC] a council review of possible human rights violations stemming from Israel's military incursions into the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. A Syrian and Pakistani draft resolution [text, PDF] now before the body cites severe humanitarian and environmental consequences of recent Israeli military action, urges immediate international action to stop the Israeli campaign and requests that Israel itself stop committing human rights violations.

The Israeli blockade began last Friday, when Israel closed crossings into Gaza and cut off electricity, fuel and emergency aid to the area after more than 45 rockets hit Israeli towns. United Nations officials Tuesday chided Israel for its response to the rocket attacks [Zeenews report], saying it was targeting civilians in illegal collective punishment rather than punishing Hamas-led militants. On the same day, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] warned [AP report] of a pending humanitarian crisis in Gaza following Israel's action, foreshadowing the destruction of the blockade. Israel and the United States boycotted Wednesday's UNHRC session, claiming [Haaretz report] that the draft resolution presented to the council regarding the blockade failed to mention the rocket attacks as a justification.






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