UN rapporteur on Gaza destruction
After a first visit to the region, a United Nations human rights rapporteur on Gaza has provided more fodder for Palestinian calls to place Israel before various forums for justice, including the International Criminal Court.
“Voices from across the Occupied Palestinian Territory are calling in unison for three demands: the need for accountability, an end to the blockade, and an end to the occupation,” noted Makarim Wibisono, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
“Those responsible for violations of international law must be brought to justice in order to avoid yet another round of deadly violence in the near future,” he said.
He reported that 1,479 civilians including 506 children were killed and 11,231 civilians including 3,436 children were injured during the 50-day Israeli military intervention in Gaza from 7 July to 26 August this year.
Some 7,000 unexploded ordinances are still littered across the Gaza Strip, continuing to pose a serious threat to people, including children,
About 228 schools in Gaza were damaged, including 26 destroyed or damaged beyond repair. About 87 schools are now operating double shifts. Temporary psychosocial support has been made available for children returning to school but those who have lost parents will require long-term professional support and counseling.
An estimated 60,000 civilians remain in 19 shelters across the Gaza Strip. With winter coming soon, there is need for rapid reconstruction and an urgent need for temporary housing.
“This raises serious questions about possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law,” Mr. Wibisono said. “Israel’s claim of self-defense against an occupied population living under a blockade considered to be illegal under international law is untenable.”
“In a population where over half of the 1.8 million people are under 18, this is truly a tragedy, which will be felt for generations to come,” he said. “Israel must immediately lift the seven year land, sea and air blockade of Gaza, and urgently allow needed materials for reconstruction and recovery.”
During his visit to the region, the Special Rapporteur met with Palestinian officials, civil society representatives, human rights defenders and victims among others in Amman and Cairo.
Israel did not grant access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory so he spoke via video and teleconference with persons in Gaza. He will present his full report on findings and recommendations to the twenty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015.
He said health professionals in Gaza complained of a critical shortage of medicines and equipment, and doctors expressed frustration at the shortage of electricity, as mobile generators were overburdened beyond their capacity.
In Amman, he visited patients from Gaza receiving treatment at King Hussein hospital. Among them was Manar, a 14 year-old girl from Beit Hanoun, who lost both her legs, and suffered shrapnel wounds and internal injuries when an Israeli strike hit an UNRWA school. Manar also lost her mother and three brothers in the same attack.
There is not a single child in Gaza who has not been adversely affected by the conflict. Children now suffer from bedwetting, difficulties in sleeping, nightmares and loss of appetite. Schools are also seeing more aggressive behavior in pupils, he added.
Regarding the West Bank and East Jerusalem, he voiced serious concerns on the deteriorating situation of human rights, including the excessive use of force by Israeli Security Forces during demonstrations and clashes from 12 June to 31 August 2014.
He said 27 Palestinians were killed, including five children with the youngest being only 11 years-old. He insisted that Israel must comply with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms. “The use of live ammunition against Palestinians even if they were throwing stones, is unjustifiable.”
About Israeli plans to evict Bedouins from their traditional homes, he said that would violate international humanitarian and human rights law and must cease immediately because “the affected communities have opposed these plans, and wish to remain in their current location”.
No one should be moved against their will and Israel should provide adequate planning and access to public infrastructures for these Bedouin communities.
He was referring to six Israeli plans in the approval pipeline that would lead to the forcible transfer and forced eviction of thousands of Bedouins and herders from the East Jerusalem periphery and the Jordan Valley. Bedouin homes and schools would also be demolished.
If implemented, the plans would further disconnect East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, disrupt the territorial contiguity of occupied Palestine, and pave the way for further expansion of Israeli settlements, and of the Wall, he noted.
In 2014, the UN Human Rights Council named Wibisono of Indonesia as the sixth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.
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