UN Human Rights Council denounces recent Israeli military actions in northern Gaza, calls it "collective punishment"

Pools of blood in Gaza (MaanImages)
UNITED NATIONS (16 November 2006) Ma'an - THE United Nations Human Rights Council has called for international action to end the Israeli incursions. At a special session held in Geneva on Wednesday, the Council also condemned Israel's recent military activities in the northern Gaza Strip, including the attack on Beit Hanoun which resulted in 19 Palestinian deaths, including 17 from one family.

By 32 votes to eight, with six abstentions and one absence, the members of the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution expressing grave concern "at the continued violation by the occupying Power, Israel, of the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian territory."

The resolution described Israel's recent military incursions as "a collective punishment of the civilians" inside the occupied Palestinian territory. They also added that such incursions will "exacerbate the severe humanitarian crisis".

The Council voiced particular concern at last week's artillery shelling of a residential area in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, where at least 18 people were killed in one morning and about 60 others injured.

The special session was convened at the request of Bahrain's ambassador on behalf of the Group of Arab States and Pakistan's ambassador on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and was the third of its kind since the Council came into being earlier this year. All of the sessions have dealt with violations by Israel.

The first special session of the Human Rights Council was held in July on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, following the Israeli offensive 'Operation Summer Rain' on the Gaza Strip. The second special session was held in August on the gross human rights violations by Israel in Lebanon, including the Qana massacre, country-wide targeting of innocent civilians, and destruction of vital civilian infrastructure.

The request for the special session was signed by the following 24 member states: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Zambia.

This session was approved in accordance with General Assembly resolution 60/251 which states that the Human Rights Council "shall be able to hold special sessions when needed at the request of a member of the Council with the support of one-third of the membership of the Council".

Israel accused the Council of double standards and politicized decision-making, saying the 47-member body was conspicuously ignoring tragedies in other parts of the world.

Itzhak Levanon, Israel's representative, told the Council meeting that his country was dismayed by the lack of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity being shown.

The Palestinian Authority and its government deserved the blame because they did nothing to stop the firing of rockets at Israeli communities from Beit Hanoun, setting the stage for an inevitable Israeli response, he said.

Mr. Levanon also accused Palestinians of using their women and children as 'human shields'.

The Palestinian representative Mohammed Abu-Koash accused Israel of trying to reverse the facts, when it had occupied Palestine and forced millions of Palestinians to become refugees. He added that the weapons which the Palestinians possessed were not significant, as had been claimed.

At the same meeting, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said she will soon visit Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, where she plans to meet officials and receive briefings from both sides, civil society groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as UN agencies.

Ma'an News Agency

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