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Geneva Convention meeting goes ahead, criticises Israeli violations

The High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention urged an end to violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) following a conference Wednesday.

The special Geneva meeting, hosted by the Swiss government, saw representatives from 126 state parties adopt a ten-point declaration that reaffirmed international humanitarian law and the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the OPT, something that Israel denies.

The declaration urges Israel "to fully and effectively respect the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem", and stresses its "obligation" to administer the OPT "in a way which fully takes into account the needs of the civilian population."

The parties went on to express "deep concern about the impact of the continued occupation", specifically singling out Israel's Wall and associated regime as "contrary to international humanitarian law", along with "the closure of the Gaza Strip".

The declaration also affirmed "the illegality of the settlements in the said territory and of the expansion thereof and of related unlawful seizure of property as well as of the transfer of prisoners into the territory of the Occupying Power."

Speaking after the meeting, Swiss ambassador Paul Fivat hailed the declaration as "unprecedented", and a "signal which is being sent to conflicting parties and especially to the civilian populations that there is a law, international, which is protecting their interests."

Fivat clarified that "the declaration binds only the parties who were [present]", with Israel, the U.S., and Canada, examples of "a small of number of High Contracting Parties" who "expressed their opposition and did not attend the Conference."

In the lead up to Wednesday's gathering, Israel tried to persuade the parties to the Convention from convening the summit at all, even sending officials several times to Bern and Geneva.

In response to the conference yesterday, Israel's UN mission claimed that "it confers legitimacy on terrorist organizations and dictatorial regimes wherever they are, while condemning a democratic country fighting terrorism in accordance with international law."

Palestine's Permanent Mission in Switzerland, meanwhile, praised the declaration, stating that "legal actions, including through universal jurisdiction and international criminal justice mechanisms" are necessary to hold Israel "accountable for its decades of violations of international law."

Israeli human rights NGO B'Tselem described the declaration as a reflection of "the illegality of the ongoing occupation and its attendant human rights violations", the "baselessness of Israel's claims of compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention", and of "Israel's ever deteriorating international status as the violations persist."

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