UN attacks Israeli rights 'crimes'

Al Jazeera English
December 10, 2008

The delivery of essential aid to Gaza has been stemmed by the Israeli blockade [AFP]
The delivery of essential aid to Gaza has been stemmed by the Israeli blockade [AFP]

Israel's policies against the Palestinians are tantamount to a "crime against humanity", the United Nations' human rights rapporteur has said.

Richard Falk said in a statement on Tuesday that the UN must "implement the agreed norm of a responsibility to protect a civilian population being collectively punished by policies that amount to a crime against humanity".

The statement came on the same day that the UN Human Rights Council urged Israel to implement 99 measures to improve its rights record.

Falk said it would seem "mandatory" that the UN's International Criminal Court investigate Israel's policies in regard to the Palestinians.

"[The court could] determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law," he said.

The Israeli government has faced a level of criticism by "normally cautious UN officials" not seen since the "the heyday of South African apartheid," Falk said.

"And still Israel maintains its Gaza siege in its full fury, allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease."

Israel has maintained tight controls on what supplies enter the Gaza Strip, home to about 1.5 million Palestinians, since Hamas, a Palestinian group, took control of it in June 2007.

The Israeli and US governments say that Hamas is a terrorist organisation.

Rights recommendations

The Human Rights Council said in its list of 99 recommendations that Israel must completely end its blockade of Gaza, while also calling for it to release Arab detainees.

Israel's ambassador to the UN in Geneva said that "Israel remains committed to reinforcing areas in which we are succeeding and bettering those areas that need improvement."

Aharon Leshno Yaar said the dialogue had been "positive and productive".

Israel is due to report to the UN council in March on how it will address the recommendations.

Deliveries allowed

The Israel military allowed dozens of lorries carrying humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and permitted the delivery of diesel to Gaza's main power plant on Tuesday.

The Karam Abu Salam crossing allowed about 40 lorries carrying supplies into the territory, while 30 lorries with grain, wheat and bird feed passed through the Karni crossing.

The Nahal Oz fuel terminal allowed in some industrial fuel for Gaza's only power plant, as well as cooking gas for the general public and petrol for UN operations.

The Erez crossing was also open for journalists and humanitarian workers coming into Gaza.

But Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the Palestinian coastal strip, said the amount of supplies allowed into Gaza was of limited quantity and would only probably last for a few days.

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Additional Resources

IHL Report – Review of the Applicability of International Humanitarian Law to the Occupied Palestinian Territory

UN Maps

Amnesty Report – Israeli army must respect human rights in its operations

Organizations

Public Committee Against Torture in Israel

Al-Haq

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Amnesty International

International Humanitarian Law Research Initiative

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