HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL CONTINUES TO DISCUSS CRISIS SITUATION IN GAZA

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON

9 January 2009


The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued with its ninth special session and discussed the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including the recent aggression of the occupied Gaza Strip.

In various statements, delegations said that the current situation was a source of serious concern. The humanitarian situation in Gaza had worsened due to the outbreak of hostilities, and this was a matter of great concern. The Security Council resolution was a positive effort, but it was just one measure. Several delegations appealed to Israel to put an end to the military operation in Gaza and condemned the criminal and disproportionate attacks by Israel, which principally affected the civilian population. The rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel were also condemned. Speakers stressed that in times of conflict, all parties had the responsibility of respecting the civilian population, and the standards of international human rights law and conventions, as well as the principles of proportionality, distinction and the protection of individuals in all circumstances in situations of hostilities. Nothing justified the current actions by Israel in the Gaza Strip: it was nothing short of an attempt to rewrite international law based on the doctrine of self defence.

Some delegations said that the Human Rights Council’s proposed draft resolution failed to acknowledge that sustained Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel had led to the current crisis and used inflammatory language. Terrorism or use of force was never a proper means to resolve conflicts. Israel should end the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, and open the border crossings to allow the passage of humanitarian supplies. The use of violence as an instrument to achieve goals by any of the parties involved was unacceptable. Nothing less than ending the violence would be effective to improve the situation. In addition to the killed and wounded, thousands of Palestinians had been displaced, but there was no safe haven for them as had been shown by the incident at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency school. It was important that today’s Special Session be able to live up to the expectation of the international community, and thus take concrete actions to fully and appropriately address these violations through, inter alia, establishing an international fact-finding mission, tasked with thoroughly investigating the Israeli regime’s human rights violations.

Speaking this afternoon were representatives of Senegal, Ukraine, Italy, Chile, Mexico, Bolivia, the Philippines, Canada, Slovenia, Germany, Jordan, the Netherlands, Brazil, Morocco, Yemen, United Nations Relief and Works Agency, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Children's Fund in a joint statement, Algeria, Turkey, Kuwait, Venezuela, Syria, Luxemburg, Belgium, Oman, Spain, Iceland, Jamaica, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Norway, New Zealand, Lebanon, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Austria, Ireland, Viet Nam, Libya, the Holy See, Thailand, Iraq, Sudan, the African Union, Maldives, Botswana, Peru, the Arab League, Costa Rica, Portugal, Greece, Australia and Afghanistan.

Also speaking were representatives of the National Council for Human Rights of Egypt, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues in joint statements.

The Council will resume its Special Session on Monday, 9 January 2008 at 10 a.m., when it is scheduled to continue to hear remaining statements, before taking action on the draft resolution.

General Debate

BABACAR CARLOS MBAYE (Senegal) said in holding the Special Session the Human Rights Council had acted in keeping with its mandate. The tragic events which had been occurring required that the Human Rights Council react to the seriousness of the human rights violations committed by Israel and its flouting of international law. Today, hundreds of people including women and children had been brutally taken from their families, and the many more numerous wounded continued to suffer all sorts of deprivations without relief. This suffering had continued too long and had resulted in great deprivation.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza had worsened due to the outbreak of hostilities, and this was a matter of great concern. All parties should respect their human rights obligations as well as the standards of international law, and all should respect that they should work to achieve a lasting cease-fire, the sine qua non for which was the creation of a viable Palestinian State, side-by-side with Israel in peace and harmony. Senegal urged the Special Rapporteur and other mandate-holders to ensure they could follow-up on the requirements in the resolution which would be, it was hoped, adopted at the end of the session.

MYKOLA MAIMESKUL (Ukraine) said that Ukraine was deeply concerned about the situation in Gaza, where the victims were mostly the elderly, women and children. Israel had to immediately put a stop to the suffering of the civilian population; otherwise a grave humanitarian situation would be the result. Ukraine believed that it was necessary to achieve a ceasefire and that a peaceful settlement was the only way to resolve the conflict in the Middle East. All parties were called upon to abide by the implementation of the Security Council’s recent resolution.

GIOVANNI CARACCIOLO DI VIETRI (Italy) said that Italy was extremely concerned by the dire situation of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. All their efforts had to be directed to one goal: the establishment of a stable and durable ceasefire. The Security Council resolution was a positive effort, but it was just one measure. Italy was convinced that the European Union had a role to play.

Italy was convinced that an end to the current conflict could only be achieved by addressing the root causes, including the supplying of arms between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. It could not be forgotten that the primary cause of this latest stage in the conflict lay with the Hamas authorities, who through their launching of rockets undermined the right of Israeli civilians to live in pace. However, Italy extended its greatest sympathy to the Palestinians living in Gaza, in particular the children. Italy stood ready to provide assistance, in coordination with its European Union partners. The Council had to send a strong political signal in support of Security Council resolution 1850, which itself was proof that the Annapolis process had been reversed.

RODRIGO DONOSO (Chile) expressed Chile’s solidarity with the victims of the attacks on the Gaza Strip. Chile also rejected the idea of launching rockets into Israel and called on all involved parties to cease their military operations and to allow citizens to get access to humanitarian aid. Further, it repeated its conviction that a military solution was not the solution. Chile supported all international efforts to achieve peace through a constructive dialogue. Only that way would it be possible to achieve a long lasting peace.

MABEL GOMEZ OLIVER (Mexico) said that Mexico condemned the loss of human lives on both sides, and there should be an immediate cessation of all hostilities. The minimum conditions for peace on both sides should prevail. Both sides should allow access to humanitarian supplies and to humanitarian missions to allow the international community to take cognisance of the situation and the violations of human rights undergone by the population. The Human Rights Council had to attend to situations of human rights violations, including gross and systematic violations, and attend to the rights of the populations affected.

In times of conflict, all parties had the responsibility of respecting the civilian population, and the standards of international human rights law and conventions, as well as the principles of proportionality, distinction and the protection of individuals in all circumstances in situations of hostilities. In cases of occupation, international human rights and humanitarian law made certain requirements inevitable.

MAYSA URENA MENACHO (Bolivia) said that Bolivia categorically rejected and condemned the criminal and disproportionate attack by Israel on the Gaza Strip. The civilian population had been bombed as had the shelters run by the United Nations, although those were clearly marked. There were millions of men, women and children who had nowhere to seek refuge. Moreover, in the last two weeks of attacks, Israel had not allowed a full entry of humanitarian aid into the territory. Notwithstanding the many protests to stop this massacre issued by the international community and the current United Nations resolution as well as the many other United Nations resolutions enacted over the years, the Israel Government had denied the rights of the Palestinians and the people of Gaza to live in peace.

Nothing justified the current actions by Israel in the Gaza Strip: it was nothing short of an attempt to rewrite international law based on the doctrine of self defence. It was the Council’s moral duty to oppose that campaign and to condemn this terrible crime. In Bolivia’s view, the human rights of peoples had to be placed above all other rules that governed wars and violence. Israel should also make it possible for United Nations personnel and journalists to enter the area so that they could verify what was happening on the ground and eventually bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.

ERLINDA F. BASILIO (Philippines) said that the Philippines had co-sponsored the request to convene this Special Session. The Philippines expressed their deep sadness at the situation in Gaza. According to media reports, at least half of all the casualties had been innocent civilians. The Philippines called on all parties to the conflict to abide by international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as to the recently adopted resolution by the Security Council. The Philippines supported all peaceful diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the conflict, particularly those led by Egypt and France. The dire situation of the Palestinian people had to be urgently addressed.

The establishment of humanitarian corridors was not enough and safe access to humanitarian aid for these in need was necessary. They also noted with serious concern that due to the recent attacks on trucks, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Far East had stopped its operation. It was the Council’s moral responsibility to help stop the violence. The humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people had to be addressed.

MARIUS GRINIUS (Canada) said Canada remained deeply concerned about the ongoing hostilities, and encouraged all diplomatic efforts to achieve an immediate, deliberate and sustained cease-fire. Canada was alarmed at the deteriorating humanitarian situation, and urged that every effort be made to help the victims of the violence. Unfortunately, the proposed resolution failed to acknowledge that sustained rocket fire on Israel led to the current crisis and it used inflammatory language. Canada believed that the appropriate location for discussions on this issue remained the Security Council, and welcomed the adoption by that body of the resolution yesterday evening.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) said that Slovenia was deeply concerned by the humanitarian and human rights situation where the suffering of the population in the Gaza Strip had increased dramatically over the past few days. While Slovenia welcomed the Security Council resolution and its condemnation of the rocket fire by Hamas into Israeli territory, it also condemned the disproportionate use of force against the Palestinian population. In particular it condemned Israeli attacks on schools and shelters and other United Nations facilities.

Slovenia was especially concerned about the reports of deaths of children and urged the need to protect the women and children in the Gaza Strip. Terrorism or use of force was never a proper means to resolve conflicts. Slovenia welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 1860 yesterday and its call for a ceasefire and the provision of access for the humanitarian community. Slovenia called on all sides to allow free access of humanitarian personnel and equipment and a return to the diplomatic process for achieving the goal of two States living side by side in peace.

KONRAD SCHARINGER (Germany) said that Germany was very concerned about the extremely grave situation in and around the Gaza Strip and deplored the high number of civilian causalities and the suffering of civilians in the region. Germany fully supported all efforts to reach an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire as requested by the recent Security Council resolution. The backing of this resolution by all members had been a strong signal. All parties to the conflict were requested to implement this resolution without delay. Germany further welcomed the initiative presented by Egypt. For the suffering population in the Gaza Strip, immediate access of humanitarian aid was of outmost urgency. Germany was also convinced that there was only a political solution to the conflict that included the establishment of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip existing side by side with Israel in peace and security.

BASHAR ABU TALEB (Jordan) said the international community should live up to its moral obligations and save the region from the consequences of the conflict. The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip was appalling. The indiscriminate bombing had only resulted in civilian deaths, including women and children, and the destruction of property. The inhabitants of the Gaza Strip had already been living in grave conditions. Israel, the occupying power, should immediately cease its military attacks and live up to its international commitments, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and United Nations resolution 18/60.

Israel should end the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, and open the border crossings to allow the passage of humanitarian supplies. The international community should seek all means to alleviate the consequences of this humanitarian catastrophe. The only way to achieve peace was to live up to the peace agreements. Jordan hoped that the draft resolution would be adopted as soon as possible.

BOUDEWIJN J. VAN EENENNAAM (Netherlands) said that the Netherlands was very satisfied that the Security Council had been able to adopt a resolution last night calling for a ceasefire by the parties to allow for humanitarian aid to reach those who needed it in the Gaza Strip. To achieve that aim, not only did Israel need to cease its incursion into Gaza, but Hamas had to stop firing rockets into Israel. The Netherlands stood ready to contribute to a mission that would monitor such a ceasefire as outlined by the Minister of the Netherlands yesterday in a European Union meeting.

HAROLDO DE MACEDO RIBEIRO (Brazil) said that Brazil was a co-signatory to the call for this Special Session and was in favour of the draft resolution. The Brazilian Government deplored the recent Israeli military operations in the region, which had aggravated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the humanitarian crisis affecting the Gaza Strip.

As a principle, the use of violence as an instrument to achieve goals by any of the parties involved was unacceptable. The need for a cessation of hostilities was urgent and vital to open up the prospects for a permanent solution to the problems in the region. All parties in the conflict had to strictly abide by their obligations established by human rights and humanitarian law. Brazil urged the Israeli Government to guarantee full access to humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip as well as to undertake all necessary measures to facilitate the provision of medical assistance to the victims of the attacks.

In all of the previous Special Sessions on the question, clear and strong resolutions had been approved but they had not yet found concrete translation into tangible and lasting results on the ground. The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories deteriorated every time a conflict erupted and this contributed to the longstanding spiral of violence in the region.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said the war unleashed by Israel was in its fourteenth day, and had caused the deaths of 800 Palestinians, with 3,000 civilians wounded, mainly women and children. This was a collective punishment of the Palestinian people, already hard hit by the illegal blockade. Morocco strongly condemned this war and its disproportionate use of force. Given the serious humanitarian deterioration, Morocco remained open to taking in wounded persons. The holding of the Special Session showed the concern and universal consciousness given to the situation in Gaza and the disapproval of the war.

Nothing could justify the iron curtain that had descended on Gaza, nor the unprecedented offensive against its population. The history of the Holy Land showed that blood and tears never led to peace - only negotiations, dialogue and respect of international legality could lead to peace, peaceful coexistence and the security of all peoples in the region. The military aggression which was continuing against the population of the Gaza Strip eroded the efforts of the international community to arrive at a just and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and was also liable to destabilise the region as a whole.

IBRAHIM SAIED MOHAMED AL-ADOOFI (Yemen) said that the occupation and its repercussions were the causes of what was happening in Gaza in terms of the ugly massacres that would leave a record of shame for humanity. Yemen strongly condemned the Israeli crimes in Gaza and the Israeli aggression that had led to the loss of hundreds of lives, mostly women and children, by means of sophisticated weapons. The attacks against schools and UNRWA shelters were grave crimes against humanity. The genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people in Gaza constituted gross and flagrant war crimes that had to be brought before the International Criminal Court. Among others, Israel by its actions had violated the fourth Geneva Convention protecting civilians in time of war. The Council had to adopt a resolution condemning those actions and setting up a fact-finding commission to look into those crimes and to ensure humanitarian corridors. The Human Rights Council mechanisms also had to be activated and the Special Procedures used appropriately. In this important moment and in the face of this grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza, all political considerations had to be put aside so to give way to principles of equity and morality.

MERETE JOHANSON, speaking in a joint statement on behalf of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Far East, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Children's Fund, said that the terrible suffering of the civil population in the Gaza Strip and the south of Israel demanded the Council’s urgent attention. The civilian population was deeply affected by the current crisis. Nothing less than ending the violence would be effective to improve the situation. In addition to the killed and wounded, thousands of Palestinians had been displaced, but there was no safe haven for them as had been shown by the incident at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency school.

Despite the major influx of the wounded, the lack of medical supplies and security had left the wounded without care. The major insecurity continued to restrict the movement of medical personnel and medical facilities had been damaged in the fighting. In most cases it took hours before ambulances could reach the wounded, if they could reach them at all, because of continuous shelling. Children urgently needed access to food and psychological counselling. Health workers were exhausted and the insecurity had severely impaired food distribution. The lack of electricity was preventing people from cooking food. As pointed out, the needs of the population were so great at this time that humanitarian organizations needed to operate round the clock. The free and save movement of wounded had to be ensured. All parties to the conflict had to adhere to their obligations to protect the civil population. Human beings had the right to life, no matter who they and where they lived.

ALIREZA MOAIYERI (Iran) said the international community was once again witnessing another round of atrocities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This time, the innocent and defenceless civilians in the Gaza Strip were being subjected to indiscriminate and collective aerial bombings and a massive land incursion. These acts of outright aggression in contravention of all human norms as well as international laws and covenants were costing the Palestinians numerous human lives. These acts of aggression followed a prolonged and harsh blockade of Gaza that meant to bring a whole population to their knees. Regrettably, the Security Council was late and passive in addressing the atrocities committed, which led to further aggression and the loss of more innocent lives.

It was important that the Special Session be able to live up to the expectation of the international community, and thus take concrete actions to fully and appropriately address these violations through, inter alia, establishing an international fact-finding mission, tasked with thoroughly investigating the Israeli regime human rights violations. Occupation lay at the heart of everlasting crises in the occupied Palestine. And unless it was properly addressed, acts of aggression by the occupying regime and its human rights violations emanating from the occupation could not be brought to an end.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said that Algeria extended its condolences to the Palestinian people for their suffering and losses and once again stated Algeria’s solidarity with them, as symbolized by the airlift to ensure necessary supplies to Gaza. In Gaza, which had become a Gulag, the foreign press had no access to testify to the killings – killings that were being used as electoral tools in Israel. Hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands of others wounded and these collective reprisals were called “errors” to either give legitimacy to or to trivialize the war crimes committed. Those included the killing of children, the bombing of schools, and the destruction of United Nations trucks and convoys by one of the most sophisticated armies in the world against a handful of poorly armed militants. Those who rose up were labelled terrorists because they were not even seen as having the right to defend themselves. Israel was once again flouting the civil and political rights – the right to information – and the right to international humanitarian law of the Palestinians, as well as the obligations Israel had undertaken in the context of its recent joining of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent.

The Council had to have the courage to speak out against the human rights violations in Gaza, as it would do elsewhere where such crimes occurred in areas that were not protected by powerful interests, avoiding double standards.

AHMET UZUMCU (Turkey) said that the Palestinian people in Gaza were faced with a desperate situation. More than 700 Palestinians, among them many civilians, had lost their lives. More than 3,000 were injured. Hospitals had serous difficulties in treating the wounded. What the world was witnessing in Gaza was a human tragedy and it had to end. Turkey hoped that the negative effects of this grave situation for peace and stability in the region could be contained. Turkey had played an active role in international diplomatic efforts in New York and in the region. They wished that the international community could have acted sooner. Turkey welcomed the resolution adopted by the Security Council calling for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire. It was essential that the resolution was implemented effectively and comprehensively.

The convening of a Special Session by the Human Rights Council was a welcome contribution to the ongoing efforts. A consensual outcome at this session would send a clear message to all parties. The international community should continue to strive for a permanent settlement of the conflict.

SADIQ M.S. MARAFI (Kuwait) said this new year began for the Human Rights Council with a Special Session to examine Israeli practices and violations and the gross and systematic violations of Israel against the Palestinian people. The situation in Gaza required the direct intervention of the Human Rights Council in order to protect the Palestinian people and to show that it lived up to its position as a role model for the international community. Israel was destroying and dismembering Gaza, continuing to kill the unarmed Palestinian people, despite the adoption by the Security Council of resolution 18/60. This resolution called for an immediate cease-fire and the full withdrawal of Israeli forces.

It was important to immediately instigate a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the situation in Gaza and the violations of international humanitarian law. All humanitarian organizations should enter Gaza to channel the necessary humanitarian assistance and medical supplies and ensure that Israel was complying with its moral and legal obligations. Israel should hasten to implement the relevant Council resolutions and live up to its duties.

GERMAN MUNDARAIN HERNANDEZ (Venezuela) said that Venezuela associated its voice with other peace-loving countries in expressing indignation and condemnation at the flagrant violation of human rights occurring in the Gaza Strip, taking away the lives of hundreds, indeed thousands, of innocent civilians, many of them women and children. It was important to see the action of the Security Council despite the veto [sic – abstention] of the United States of the current resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. That pointed to the clear need for Security Council reform.

The Human Rights Council now had to send a clear message of hope to the world. The politico-military elite in Israel, with the support of the United States, had been applying a policy of military aggression against the Palestinian people. Israel was immensely arrogant, declining to comply with the many resolutions of this body. Venezuela called for a strongly worded resolution by the Council, condemning the criminal activity of the Israeli Government, establishing a ceasefire, and providing for a humanitarian corridor. It should also establish a fact-finding mission to travel to the country and establish the guilt of those responsible for these crimes. For its part, Venezuela was offering 800 tons of food and medicines to assist the victims.

KHALIL BITAR (Syria) said that women and children were being buried alive in the Gaza Strip and ambulance teams and international worker teams were not spared either. Israel was using machinery and weapons that were internationally forbidden. The Council had just finished discussing the Beit Hanoun massacre a few months ago when Israel had started another massacre. Syria called for an immediate cessation of the killings. The Council bore historic responsibility to prove that it was the last recourse to victims, including Palestinian victims.

CHRISTINE GOY (Luxembourg) said the holding of the Special Session clearly met the conditions laid down in the resolution setting up the Human Rights Council. Some 1.5 million people were living in appalling conditions without human dignity, prospects, or respect for the human rights which the Council was to protect and promote. Luxembourg intended to contribute to the resolution of the crisis, including by stepping up the peace process. Neutrality, impartiality and the independence of humanitarian action could not be overstated.

Luxembourg would continue to closely monitor the situation and the crisis. Continued hostilities and the refusal to grant humanitarian access would postpone by decades the hopes for peace and the fundamental rights of the people of Gaza. Israel should renounce collective punishment and guarantee unhindered access to the civilian population of Gaza.

ALEX VAN MEEUWEN (Belgium) said Belgium expressed deep concern at the escalating violence in Gaza and in the south of Israel and at the tragic increase in the number of victims. The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip was deeply worrisome. Belgium called on the Israeli authorities to authorize unimpeded access to the affected population in the Palestinian territory. Belgium had made numerous pledges of assistance, including a plan to fly wounded children to Belgium for medical care. That team would arrive as soon as the necessary preparations were completed.

MOHAMED SAUSD AL-RAWAHI (Oman) said that the Palestinian people were the victims of a massacre, which went beyond understanding. If, in face of these war crimes and this genocide against a besieged population, the international community did not intend to react, this would undermine the international community’s instruments.

It was high time for the international community to raise its voice. War and its escalation would not serve any purpose. Security could only be guaranteed through negotiations with the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people. Also, the Security Council had to implement the resolution adopted yesterday, without further delay, to put an end to the current situation. If it failed it would further compromise the credibility of the Security Council.

JAVIER GARRIGUES (Spain) said the holding of the Special Session was most timely, in line with the Council's mandate and the humanitarian aspect of the tragic situation in the Gaza Strip. The civilian population could not be held hostage to political conflicts. That UNWRA had had to suspend the distribution of food deteriorated the situation even more. The absolute priority was guaranteeing humanitarian access to the population in an unrestricted fashion. Spain supported the setting-up of a fact-finding mission on violations of international humanitarian law, and categorically condemned the irresponsible conduct that had led to a breakdown in the cease-fire.

The adoption of resolution 1860 by the Security Council was welcomed, and it should be complied with by all parties involved. There should be a dignified life in Gaza. Security was vital for Israel and its citizens, as it was in any other state, but making indiscriminate use of weapons was a blind alley. Peace would be reached by a political dialogue.

RAGNAR G. KRISTJANSSON (Iceland) said that the situation in Gaza was unacceptable. It was unacceptable because the right to life of the civilians there was not being upheld. They were also being denied their basic rights to economic, social and political rights. Those were people who had been living under occupation for over 40 years and who had been living under siege for over 18 months. Now they were the victims of yet another onslaught. The conflict was not about terrorism. The central issue was the self-determination of the Palestinian people and their right to establish a viable and independent state side by side with Israel.

Iceland condemned the military operations in Gaza in densely populated areas, which were clearly in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. It also condemned the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza. As for the direct attacks on UNRWA shelters and the need for it to suspend its services, that would lead to the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation of the already vulnerable population. Iceland aligned itself with the declarations of the Secretary-General and his condemnations of those attacks on United Nations facilities and welcomed Security Council resolution 1860, passed last night.

PETER C. BLACK (Jamaica) said that Jamaica was deeply concerned at the recent escalation of the conflict. Jamaica recognised Israel’s right to self defence, but condemned the disproportionate use of force. The current military action had further exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza due to the blockade. The Security Council’s call for an immediate and enduring ceasefire had to be implemented to alleviate the humanitarian crises. Jamaica further urged all parties to further diplomatic solutions and called for the resumption of negotiations.

CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said the indiscriminate aerial and ground military assaults had led to hundreds dead and thousands wounded, and the war was now escalating further. Israeli military activities unjustifiably carried out in defiance of repeated calls of the international community constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity, breaching the United Nations Charter and international human rights and humanitarian laws. There should be an immediate cessation of Israeli military assaults in order to address the current bloody situation in Gaza. There should be an end to the Israeli occupation in order to pave the way for a lasting solution to human rights violations by Israel in the Palestinian territories. Support for Israel by its western allies should no longer be tolerated. As long as there remained United States patronage for Israel, it would be impossible to achieve complete termination of Israeli atrocities resulting from such acts as state terrorism and crimes against humanity.

BEATE STIRO (Norway) said that Norway welcomed the Security Council resolution adopted yesterday calling for a ceasefire and a start to diplomatic negotiations. Now it was up to the international community to ensure its implementation. Without a political solution to this conflict, Palestinians would be denied their right to self-determination and Israelis their right to live in safety.

The conflict had reached a new low yesterday with UNRWA’s declaration of a cessation of its activities. Since the beginning of hostilities Special Rapporteurs had been denied entrance into Gaza. That had to be stopped and Israel had to allow them in. In its resolution, the Security Council had called on humanitarian and development efforts to be undertaken in unison. The conflict could not be resolved without addressing the root causes, including the continuation of settlement activity by Israel and the split in the Palestinian political leadership.

WENDY HINTON (New Zealand) said that the tragic events of the past few days served to highlight the necessity for an immediate ceasefire. New Zealand was deeply concerned about the worsening humanitarian and human rights situation in Gaza. Both sides in the conflict needed to focus on the severe and escalating nature of the crisis. Civilians had a right to be protected. There also had to be unhindered access of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population. More civilians would lose their lives unless there was an immediate ceasefire. Unless there was a full ceasefire, the current security conditions would continue to prevent the distribution of aid to the civilian population. It was critical that Israel met its obligations under international humanitarian law and ensured that the people of Gaza had access to food and medical supplies. Hamas had to prevent the launching of rockets into Israel and Israel’s attacks on Gaza had to cease and arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip had to stop. The people of Israel and Gaza deserved the protection of international law and the ability to live in peace and security. The Human Rights Council had a role to play in ensuring that all parties to the conflict respected the human rights of people in Palestine and Israel.

NAJLA RIACHI ASSAKER (Lebanon) said the situation in the Gaza Strip was a flagrant violation of human rights. There could be no possible political justification for such terrible massacres, which had to cease. Israel bore full responsibility for these under international humanitarian law. The international community should urge Israel to lift the blockade and cease all violations, allowing humanitarian aid to reach the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. The adoption of the resolution by the Security Council was encouraging. These had been dark days, and they continued to be so in Gaza. Anyone with a conscience had to feel shocked as to what had been going on in front of them for the last 14 days. The reality was men, women and innocent children, wounded, crying in pain, with no one to help them. The humanitarian aspect of the crisis should encourage the Human Rights Council to reach consensus and to uphold humanity, international humanitarian law and international human rights.

MAURICIO MONTALVO (Ecuador) said that Ecuador reiterated its condolences to the Palestinian people and expressed its full solidarity with them because of the deaths of hundreds of civilians. Ecuador also condemned the unacceptable human and material destruction carried out by Israeli forces. The flagrant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by Israel were unacceptable. Ecuador condemned the fact that Israel was turning a deaf ear to all the calls by the international community to adhere to international human rights and humanitarian law. It should put the genocide to an end. The Council should adopt decisions that would make it possible to re-establish human rights in that territory as soon as possible. Among other requirements, Israel had to immediately and urgently open all the border crossings so that humanitarian assistance could enter the Gaza Strip.

DAYAN JAYATILLEKA (Sri Lanka) said that one of the most poignant scenes seen on the television sets was when Palestinian women and children cried out whether the world was watching what was happening or not. Today, the Human Rights Council was answering that call. One could not accept the explanation that the ceasefire broke down because of the firing of the rockets by Hamas this December. In fact, the ceasefire was broken when already in November six Palestinians had been killed. Further, everyone knew what had happened to the most moderate of the Palestinian leaders, Yasser Arafat, when his office had been turned into rubble. In it, one recognized the continuity of the aggressive policy of Israel. Sri Lanka was also totally opposed to the launching of rockets into Israel.

BABACAR BA, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that at a time when the world was joining to celebrate the end of 2008 A.D., Israel had once again singled itself out for its appalling crimes in Gaza. Israel had been conducting a deliberate, inhuman policy of deliberately sealing off Gaza. This policy of collective punishment had been condemned a number of times by the international community, as it contravened international humanitarian law and policy. The deadly outcome of the deadly raids should be condemned, as should Israel's deliberate policy - the latter should ensure it met its international humanitarian commitments, without which it could not pretend to be a member of the international community. The Council should remember it was responsible to history and the conscience of mankind. There should be an international court of enquiry to investigate the extent of the crimes of Israel. These massacres should not be left without follow-up, as had others in the past. The rebellious State of Israel should be made to follow international conventions.

ABDELWAHEB JEMAL (Tunisia) endorsed other statements with regard to the catastrophic situation faced by their Palestinian brothers because of the Israeli invasion. What the Gaza Strip was enduring in terms of living conditions and deplorable health conditions was the precursor of a massive humanitarian tragedy. Tunisia firmly condemned the military escalation in the Gaza Strip and insisted that the use of force not be allowed and that all measures designed to blockade the Palestinians be rejected. Tunisia called on the international community to assist the Palestinian people to throw off their occupation and to enjoy their right to self-determination.

Tunisia had worked constantly to ensure a peaceful and durable solution and allow the Palestinian people to have an independent State on its territory. The Council had to send an urgent and clear message to Israel that it had to respect its commitments. Tunisia appealed to all members to adopt the resolution by consensus.

OBAID SALEM SAEED AL ZAABI (United Arab Emirates) said that this Special Session was being held while the world was witnessing one of the most barbaric aggressions. This situation constituted a violation of humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions. The Israelis were not sparing civilian areas. They were targeting mosques, schools and hospitals. This constituted a collective punishment. This in itself was a war crime. The world had to impose justice and condemn the practices and violations of humanitarian law by Israel. The international community had to react rapidly to force Israel to lift the blockade and open up the border crossings. The Human Rights Council was called upon once again to act and the United Arab Emirates requested the High Commissioner to submit a report on the Israeli human rights violations.

CHRISTIAN STROHAL (Austria) said the Special Session was timely and urgent. Austria was concerned about the situation in and around Gaza, as was everybody else. It was regrettable that previous calls for an end to the violence had been ignored. Austria had repeatedly condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel, and respected the right of Israel to safeguard her citizens - but believed the military incursions were excessive, in particular with regards to the toll on innocent civilian lives. Austria remained highly concerned about the desperate humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and its effects on civilian lives. All parties should abide by all standards and norms of international human rights and international humanitarian law. There was concern for the current suspension of United Nations activities in the Strip, and Austria fully concurred with calls by the International Committee of the Red Cross that humanitarian access should be granted and that medical personnel and installations be protected. All parties should take the necessary measures to alleviate the humanitarian situation and ensure access to Gaza. The creation of a viable, independent, sovereign and democratic Palestinian State, living peacefully in co-existence with Israel, in mutual recognition and respect of borders was wished for.

DAITHI O CEALLAIGH (Ireland) said the tragic events of the past two weeks ago had not only taken a huge toll in terms of human lives, they also undermined the prospects of the peace process. Ireland condemned the bombing by Israel of the Gaza Strip, as well as the launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Ireland had also repeatedly called for the immediately cessation of hostilities in Gaza and the establishment of a durable peace, and therefore fully supported Security Council resolution 1860 and diplomatic negotiations.

Ireland regretted very much the offensive military operations that had required UNRWA to suspend its humanitarian actions in the Gaza Strip. Ireland particularly welcomed the leadership shown by the Secretary-General in resolving this crisis and the statement made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Council this morning. They had to insist on full compliance by all sides to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law, and the ceasefire had to be accompanied by a full opening of the crossing points to allow humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance. Ireland was donating 500,000 euros to the United Nations Relief Fund for the current crisis.

VU ANH QUANG (Viet Nam) expressed Viet Nam’s profound concern about the escalating situation in the Gaza Strip which had caused an alarming toll of innocent civilian lives and widespread destruction of the infrastructure and private properties of innocent Palestinians. They were also gravely preoccupied by the worsening humanitarian crisis being faced by Palestinians in Gaza. Every day passing by was another day where one saw more lives of innocents lost or harmed and those of innocent Israelis threatened. For Viet Nam, there was no military solution to the conflict and it called on all parties concerned to respect the rules of human rights law and international humanitarian law. Viet Nam also paid tribute to United Nations agencies and other humanitarian organizations for their work.

HASNIA MARKUS (Libya) said Libya was appalled by the massacres that had been happening in the Gaza Strip, and strongly condemned these crimes and the genocide that was perpetrated by the Zionist entity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This was a flagrant disregard of international instruments and treaties, including resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly. The serious repercussions on the health of Palestinians necessitated the re-opening of the crossings. The Human Rights Council should live up to its responsibilities and mandate, and break its silence on this issue, proving itself to the international community.

HUBERTUS MATHEUS VAN MEGEN (Holy See) said the Holy See expressed its solidarity with the people of Gaza who were dying and suffering because of the military invasion launched by the Israeli authorities, as well as with those in southern Israel who were suffering under rocket attacks that had also caused some civilian casualties. The continuance of violence would not lead to peace but to a continuation of violence. The Holy See urged the sides to seek to resolve the conflict through dialogue.

It was evident that the warring parties were not able to exit from this vicious cycle of violence without the assistance of the international community. Among others, they should do so by helping to establish a humanitarian corridor. At the same time, the international community should remain engaged in removing the root cause of the problem, based on the international resolutions adopted during the last years. As Pope Benedict XVI had pronounced yesterday “once again military options are no solution and violence where ever it comes from and whatever form it takes must be firmly condemned”.

SIHASAK PHUANGKETKEOW (Thailand) said that the concern of the international community on the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip had been heard loud and clear. The spectre of violence and suffering currently taking place in the Gaza Strip clearly stirred their collective conscience. Israel’s security concerns had to be taken into account; nonetheless, given the heavy loss of civilian lives, the scale of the incursion could hardly be justified on any grounds. They had taken note of the opening of a humanitarian corridor into the Gaza Strip, but more had to be done. Thailand had provided an immediate contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency to address the emergency requirements of the population in Gaza. Thailand urged all sides to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law. All knew that violence only led to more violence. Thailand further welcomed Security Council resolution 1860.

AHLAM AL GAILANI (Iraq) said the holding of the Special Session was a reflection of the international community's concern as to the grave violations of human rights committed by the Occupying Power in Gaza. The grave violations committed against the Palestinian people showed that Israel did not even comply to its most basic commitments under international law; this was why it was up to the international community to stop Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip. It was the international community's collective moral and legal responsibility to take a firm stand and ensure that the occupying forces respected international law, and to reject Israeli allegations that it was exercising its right to self-defence. Israel should ensure humanitarian access to the wounded and displaced. The border crossings should be opened, and the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and to an independent State should be respected.

RAHMA SALIH ELOBIED (Sudan) said the Government and people of Sudan had followed with great sorrow and anger the activities that were unfolding and categorically rejected the mad attacks by Israel in Gaza, including against United Nations staff, schools and shelters which had led to UNRWA’s cessation of its activities. Those were flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and were war crimes. Sudan called on Israel to respect its commitments under the international treaties and charters to which it was a party, to end its aggression, to stop the blockade on the people, and to open the crossings to humanitarian assistance. Military operations were not the ideal solution. Sudan called on all parties to pursue negotiations to allow for a diplomatic solution that would provide Palestinians with a separate and equal state with Jerusalem as its capital.

KHADIJA MASRY, of the African Union, said that the Commission of the African Union had been following with great concern the ongoing deterioration of the situation in Gaza, where children had been blindly killed by the Israeli Army. The Commission energetically condemned the attacks by the Israeli Army. The majority of the victims were innocent civilians, women and children. The attackers had not spared them nor United Nations buildings, nor schools, nor ambulances; these were flagrant violations of international law.

The international community had to shoulder its responsibility to bring both parties to a defintinve settlement of this conflict in the Middle East. The African Union called on both parties to bring into force the recent resolution by the Security Council and the occupying power in Gaza had to leave in the shortest time possible. The Commission also called on the international community to immediately provide all necessary humanitarian aid and to guarantee that it could enter the Gaza Strip.

ABDUL GHAFOOR MOHAMED (Maldives) said Maldives was gravely concerned at the widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law caused by Israel's bombardment and invasion of the Gaza Strip. These violations had drawn widespread criticism and protest around the world. Maldives condemned the massively disproportionate use of force in which Israel's powerful modern army was inflicting collective punishment on 1.5 million innocent and defenceless Palestinians in retaliation for the actions of a few. The targeting of civilian areas represented a complete and callous disregard for human lives, human rights, human values, and international humanitarian law. All parties should agree, honour and maintain a ceasefire, avoid any additional civilian casualties and protect fundamental human rights. A negotiated outcome based on the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions was the only way to ensure long-term peace, security and stability in the region. Maldives called for a final, just and comprehensive settlement with the realisation of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and within secure and recognised borders.

BOOMETSWE MOKGOTHU (Botswana) said that Botswana believed that it was the duty of all to send out a strong message about the human rights and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in particular the Gaza Strip was of great concern to Botswana, which had been closely following the deteriorating humanitarian situation there. It was also closely monitoring the diplomatic efforts being carried out in New York and elsewhere to establish a ceasefire, and welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 1860. Botswana was confident that a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was possible with genuine negotiations between the parties. Botswana hoped that the resolution to be adopted by the Human Rights Council was adopted by consensus, given the grave situation in the Gaza Strip, and that it would be implemented.

ELMER SCHIALER (Peru) expressed Peru’s deep concern about the violence in the Gaza Strip and condemned the disproportionate use of force and the recent land operation by the Israeli Army. Peru also condemned the indiscriminate rocket launching by Hamas. The humanitarian crisis facing the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip was deepening. As indicated by the High Commissioner international human rights and humanitarian law was applicable at all times. Peru hoped that resolution 1860 would be appropriately implemented. A ceasefire was the only way to solve the current situation.

SAAD ALFARARGI, of the Arab League, said for a third time the Human Rights Council was meeting in Special Session to examine Israeli violations and targeted abuse, massacres and killings perpetrated on the Palestinian people by the Occupying Power in Gaza and the other Occupied Territories. Many of these acts were war crimes which deserved sanctioning and accountability. The aggression continued barbarically against civilians - this could not be called self-defence. Israel was the occupying power, and the Palestinian people wished to liberate themselves from this power. Israel was the only occupying power in the world today - there could be no targeting of civilians on either side, but it had not respected this. The Council had looked into these violations against the Palestinian people, and several mechanisms had been established to examine these, but Israel had persistently flouted the resolutions, claiming that the Council's resolutions were biased against it, and ignoring them. The international community should remember its responsibilities in particular with regards to the Geneva Conventions.

CARLOS GARBANZO BLANCO (Costa Rica) welcomed the calling of this Special Session in the face of the recent events that had taken place in the Middle East, and expressed its concern at the severe humanitarian impact they had had on the civilians of the Gaza Strip. Costa Rica deplored the excessive use of force by Israel and the acts of terrorism by Hamas, including the launch of rockets from Palestinian territory. Costa Rica called for a return to dialogue and reiterated that there would not be a final victory in the Middle East of one side over the other, but only in the form of the establishment of two peaceful States living side by side. Costa Rica therefore raised its voice against these actions that were sabotaging the peace process.

Costa Rica urged the Council to adopt a resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities and a return to dialogue. In that regard, resolution 1860 adopted by the Security Council yesterday had marked an important step forward.

MARI MIRANDA DUARTE (Portugal) said that Portugal was concerned about the conditions in Gaza. Portugal called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and welcomed Security Council resolution 1860. Portugal also condemned the firing of rockets by Hamas as well as the Israeli military operation. Portugal expressed their sincere condolences to the families of the victims of the Israeli Army operation. All parties were invited to put an end to the fighting and to fully abide by their obligations.

FRANCISCOS VERROS (Greece) said Greece was deeply concerned about the Israeli attacks on the ground in the Gaza Strip and the rocket attacks on Israel. This situation had to stop now - there should be an unconditional halt to attacks on both sides. The Security Council resolution 1860 on an immediate cease-fire was welcomed. There was a need for unhindered access to humanitarian workers. There could be no military solution to the conflict - these actions only brought more suffering and more violence. There should be an end to violence and a re-launching of the peace process.

MIRANDA BROWN (Australia) said Australia was deeply disturbed by the violence in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel. Australia had supported the adoption of resolution 1860 and its call for a ceasefire as well as the opening of a humanitarian corridor. Any solution also had to end rocket attacks on southern Israeli and arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip.

Australia was deeply concerned by the humanitarian implications of the conflict and recognized the grave situation in the Gaza Strip. All parties had to refrain from actions that could increase civilian suffering. Australia therefore condemned Hamas’ use of civilian locations from which to launch its attacks, and indiscriminate shelling by Israel. Australia had pledged 5 million in additional assistance, which would provide emergency food and medical supplies, as well as cash payments to affected families.

NANGUYALAI TARZI (Afghanistan) said that the right of self-determination of the Palestinian civilians and their human rights were being violated. Even schools and hospitals had been under attack. Further measures to block humanitarian assistance to the needy had worsened the situation. The people in Gaza had no access to their basic needs. The Israeli military operation was in contradiction with international law and was affecting the already fragile peace process. Afghanistan also called on the international community to provide humanitarian aid to the population in Gaza and welcomed Security Council resolution 1860.

AHMED KAMAL ABOULMAGD, of the National Council for Human Rights of Egypt, said all were encouraged by the decision to adopt resolution 1860 of the Security Council, as this ordered Israel to stop all military activities and to uphold a cease fire. The position of the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights was also welcomed, as it promoted dialogue, which was conducive to reaching peace. Israel should stop the attacks and immediately withdraw its military, and begin a dialogue, with the support of the United Nations, the Council, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in order for peace to be sustainable.

WESSMAN AHMAD, of Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man, in a joint statement, said that they had come before the Human Rights Council not to ask for condemnation but for action. The Palestinians suffering today in the Gaza Strip were already refugees condemned to the world’s largest military prison. Israel’s current actions were not only an erroneous interpretation of international law, but constituted war crimes. Not only was Israel responsible, but its political and military leaders were also individually responsible for war crimes owing to systematic attacks against civilian Palestinians. Illegal rocket fire emanating from Gaza in no way justified those war crimes. The only effective measure the Human Rights Council could take under these circumstances was to request that the General Assembly convene with a view to towards the imposition of collective measures against the Israeli Government. History would judge their actions.

RAJI NETTER,of the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, in a joint statement, said that for two years, Gaza had been under siege and had been socio-economically suffocating. Gaza was totally paralysed, by lack of fuel, gas and even cement. Entire medical institutions were collapsing as well as educational institutions. This was a crime and it had to stop. If Israel claimed it was because of Hamas rockets, why was Israel continuing to build settlements in the West Bank and holding Palestinians in prisons. This was just an excuse. Palestinians would not forget these war crimes. The criminal siege had to stop. They wanted the rule of law to prevail and not the rule of the jungle. The international law was not for academics, but for all people.
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