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Israel-Gaza crisis dominates close of Human Rights Council session

Some 22 countries and one non-governmental organization (NGO) took the floor, turning the meeting into a mini urgent debate on the crisis sparked by Hamas attacks against Israel and the capture of more than 100 Israelis who are being held hostage by militants inside the Gaza Strip.

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The surprise incursion prompted intense aerial bombardment by Israel, a complete siege of the Gaza Strip, and an order to evacuate the northern part of the enclave within 24 hours, which began on Thursday evening, local time.  

Opposing opinions

At the Council, Western States focused on condemning Hamas and support for Israel’s right to self-defence.

States that are part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab Group focused on Israel’s attacks against Gaza while expressing support for the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination.

The UN’s preeminent human rights body is made up of 47 Member States who serve for a period of three years. Membership is based on equitable geographical distribution by region.  

Support for both sides

Among members that spoke were Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC), Algeria and Sudan.  

Their interventions focused on Israel’s conduct in Gaza, including loss of civilian life and infrastructure, the need for humanitarian corridors in Gaza, and support for Palestinian self-determination.

France, the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, raised the joint communiqué issued on Monday by their leaders and Italy. That document expressed “steadfast and united support to the State of Israel” and “unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and its appalling acts of terrorism.” 

Belgium and Czechia also made aligned comments in support of Israel and called for the release of hostages. South Africa, China, and India appealed for de-escalation by all parties, humanitarian assistance and efforts towards the peace process.

Non-members Palestine and Israel also participated in the meeting.

Palestine: End the massacre

Palestinian Ambassador Ibrahim M. Khraishi appealed for an end to what he termed the ongoing “massacre” in the Gaza strip, listing the casualties that include “more than 1,750 martyrs, more than 500 children and 7,000 injured”.  He also cited the ongoing destruction in Gaza, the racist and criminal declarations, the cutting of food, electricity, water and fuel, and where Israel representatives had described the Palestinian people as “human animals”.

Mr. Khraishi noted that some States had said that they share the values and principles of Israel. “This is not something acceptable for you to associate yourselves with those criminals,” he said. He also pointed to the destruction of infrastructure, hospitals and ambulances, saying this would never kill the will and determination of the Palestinian people to achieve their freedom and an end to occupation.

Israel: Stand with us

Israeli Ambassador Meirav Eilon Shahar said more than 1,300 citizens and foreigners had been brutally massacred by Hamas, and that roughly 2,500 terrorists entered the country “to murder, torture, rape, kidnap and behead my people”. Hamas shows no respect for human life and human rights, she added. The group “shot innocent people, blew up whole families in their homes, and they stabbed young children in their beds.”

In response to the Arab Group statement, the Israeli representative said that ISIS and Hamas were the same sides of the same coin and asked what these States did in response to ISIS.

Ms. Shahar noted that for years delegations have supported Hamas and its calls for the destruction of the Jewish people. She said others should condemn Hamas and demand the release of hostages. The Ambassador asked other countries to stand with Israel in its war against terror.

NGO condemns international crimes

The NGO International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) condemned all crimes under international law committed by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups, saying targeted and indiscriminate attacks against civilians can never be justified.

ISHR called for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to accelerate its investigation into serious crimes committed by all parties in Palestine and Israel.

Meanwhile, according to ISHR, the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, established by the Council, should also address the situation within the context of its root causes, which include settler colonialism, apartheid and denial of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and return. 

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