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UN Human Rights Council demands probe of Gaza deaths

Palestinians carry a wounded man to ambulance after Israeli occupation forces' intervention during a protest, organized to mark 70th anniversary of Nakba, also known as Day of the Catastrophe in 1948, and against United States' plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, near Israel border in Khan Yunis, Gaza on 16 May, 2018 [Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians carry a wounded man who was injured after Israeli forces attacked Palestinians during a protest marking the 70th Anniversary of Nakba in Gaza on 16 May 2018 [Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency]

The UN Human Rights Council is set to vote on a resolution calling for the establishment observer mission in Gaza later this evening, after near unanimous condemnation of Israel’s killing of Palestinian protesters from national representatives earlier today.

The emergency meeting this morning was called for by over 17 states, including Qatar, South Africa, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the UAE and Pakistan, along with the support of Turkey, Oman and Bahrain among others.

The session opened with UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Al-Hussein declaring that Gazans were “caged in a toxic slum from birth to death” and condemning Israel’s use of force which left over 60 Palestinians dead and more than 3,000 wounded on Monday.

“Nobody has been made safer by the horrific events of the past week,” he said. “End the occupation, and the violence and insecurity will largely disappear.”

A pre-recorded statement from UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestine Michael Lynk was then shown at the meeting, in which he confirmed Israeli forces had responded to demonstrators with a disproportionate amount of violence.

“The Gazan demonstrations have been almost entirely unarmed and non-violent. Thousands and thousands marching, singing, protesting against their conditions, and demanding the right to a better future,” Lynk said.

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Israeli representative Aviva Raz Shecter condemned the council’s choice to focus on Israel’s actions as opposed to those of Hamas, who Tel Aviv maintains is behind the protests.

Shecter further claimed that Israel’s actions were guided by international law and that it sought to protect citizens more than Hamas.

“We have known that the human rights of Israelis are not on the agenda of these councils – now we see that neither are the Gazans,” she said, accusing the council of disadvantaging Palestinians by not recognising the alleged threat of the Gaza Strip authority.

Palestinian representative Ibrahim Khraishi reinforcing the fact that the people of Gaza were expressing their misery after over 50 years of occupation and over ten years of being under siege by Israel.

Khraishi called the US the “sponsor of hatred” when recalling how it had vetoed a UN call for an investigation earlier this week. He also responded to allegations of Palestinian incitement by quoting Israeli Minister Gilad Erdan who earlier this week compared Gaza protesters to Nazis.

“If the Palestinians have committed any violations, we are ready to shoulder responsibility,” he pledged, emphasising the need for an independent fact finding mission to hold Israel accountable for its actions.

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Several other states spoke on the incidents of this week, the vast majority condemning Israel’s violent response as provocative and disproportionate.

Togo, which spoke on behalf of the African group and the UAE, on behalf of the Arab group, both denounced the violence that had taken place on the border and expressed their commitment to a diplomatic resolution to the conflict. Venezuela and South Africa also passionately defended the peaceful resistance of the Palestinian people, emphasising that an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital was the only solution

Of Israel’s few supporters, the US was the most vocal, reaffirming Tel Aviv’s right to defend itself and accusing the session of blatantly taking sides in the conflict.

“The continued anti-Israel bias of this Council does nothing to promote that future, and the one-sided action proposed by this Council today only further shows that the Human Rights Council is a broken body,” the representative concluded.

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Whilst Canada expressed its support for an independent investigation to examine the facts on the ground, it stated that it could not support the mandate of the UNHRC investigation that the council is set to vote on, also claiming bias.

“We cannot support the resolution before the Council today, as it clearly prejudges the outcome of such an investigation. The resolution is one-sided, and does not advance the prospects for a peaceful, negotiated settlement to this conflict,” Canada said.

The vote is scheduled to be held later this evening. Drafted by Muslim countries, it was backed by African members of the council, while EU countries called for a probe of violations committed by “all parties”.

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