Israel's Gaza Blockade Violates Rights of Population: UN Probe

Shreerupa Mitra-Jha/Geneva
Israel's Gaza Blockade Violates Rights of Population: UN Probe

Israel's blockade of Gaza has impeded the realisation of every right of the population there and strangulated its economy, a UN investigator told the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) today.

"Three major conflicts in six years and the blockade have strangled Gaza's economy and impeded the realisation of virtually every right of the population of Gaza, hampering access to education, housing, health, food, water and sanitation," Chairperson of the UN Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, Mary Mc Gowan Davis, said while presenting her report at the 29th session of the UNHRC.

The timing of the attacks, the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects and the razing of densely populated neighbourhoods "raises concerns that the strikes may have constituted military tactics reflective of a broader policy, approved at least tacitly by decision-makers at the highest levels of the Government of Israel," the former New York judge told the Council.

The UN investigators called on all sides to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has opened a separate preliminary investigation, adding that "current accountability mechanisms may not be adequate to address this issue".

The Gaza conflict was being debated under Agenda "Item 7" which deals with human rights situation in Palestinian and other occupied Arab territories.

The US does not participate in debates under "Item 7" of the UNHRC alleging that the Jewish state is a victim of bias.

Israel also never participates in debates under Item 7.

In a press conference after the UNHRC debate on the CoI report, Permanent Representative of the Mission of Israel, Eviatar Manor, said that the UNHRC is "obsessed with Israel" and Item 7 is "illegitimate".

"Item 7 under my point of view is illegitimate and we will never participate in debates under that Item," said Manor.

"I am out here not there in the chamber of the Human Rights Council because the HRC has abandoned fairness, has become morally flawed, and has entirely politicised its concern for universal human rights. It has adopted 61 resolutions against Israel and only 55 country resolutions against the rest of the world," the Israeli diplomat said.

Israel also said there was no "siege" but a "legal naval blockade" in Gaza.

The 51-day Gaza conflict ended last year with a truce between Israel and the Hamas on August 26 following the deaths of more than 1,462 Palestinian civilians, a third of them children and 73 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

More than 11,000 civilians were injured in Gaza of which 10 percent were permanently disabled while 1,600 were injured from the Israeli side.

"Regrettably, in urban warfare, there is, and I regret the word, collateral damage. And you cannot make it illegal unless you change the rules of armed conflict — you decide via a (UN) convention that urban warfare is illegal," said Manor.

Mc Gowan had earlier said that war crimes have likely been committed by both Israel and Palestinian militants in the 2014 Gaza conflict.

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