In the comments to the Human Rights Council in Geneva – which stopped supporting an appeal for an international investigation into the escalation in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel – Ms Bachelet condemned the indiscriminate rocket attacks by the de facto Gaza authority Hamas, which caused 10 casualties in Israel, and strikes enclaves by Israeli security forces which left 242 dead.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights also welcomed the May 21 ceasefire, but warned it was only “a matter of time” until the next flare-up, unless the root causes of the latter escalation.
Question about war crimes
Addressing the issue of possible war crimes, Ms Bachelet reminded the 47 Council member states that Israeli air strikes in densely populated areas have “resulted in a high level of casualties and injuries among civilians, as well as the widespread destruction of civilians. civil infrastructures “.
Such attacks can constitute war crimes if deemed indiscriminate and disproportionate in their impact on civilians and civilian objects, “explained the High Commissioner via video link to the Geneva-based forum, which met in a special session at the request of Pakistan on behalf of the l ‘Organization for Islamic Cooperation.
The “heavy rocket shelling of Israel” by Hamas and other armed groups also constituted “a clear violation of international humanitarian law,” Ms Bachelet said.
Also addressing the Council, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, michael lynk, reiterated his request that the latest escalation – the most serious since 2014 – be investigated by the International Criminal Court.
Describing Gaza as “the largest open-air prison in the world,” Lynk added that the enclave was nothing more than a “small slice of land, which contained more than two million people under occupation, cut off from the outside world by a vast and illegal air, sea and land blockade ”.
Only Israel had the authority to determine “who and what enters and leaves the (Gaza) Strip,” insisted the Special Rapporteur, who is independent of the UN and responds to the 47 member states of the Human Rights Council.
“When intense violence returns to Palestinians in Gaza, as it regularly does, there is no escape. That this medieval restriction on fundamental freedoms has been going on for 14 years and beyond is a heartbreaking stain on our humanity. “
Israel would not end its occupation “without decisive international action” based on the framework of rights, the independent rights expert continued.
He insisted that “the occupation of Israel has become as entrenched and sustainable as it has been because the international community has never imposed a significant cost on Israel for acting as a greedy and rebellious occupying power.”
Highlighting the human cost of the recent escalation, the Special Rapporteur highlighted the killing of Dr. Ayman Abu Alouf, head of internal medicine at Al-Shifa hospital, the largest medical center in Gaza.
“He was killed last week by an Israeli missile against his apartment building along with 12 members of his extended family, including his parents, his wife, his 17-year-old son and his 13-year-old daughter,” said Mr. Lynk.
“Dr. Abu Alouf was also responsible for the hospital’s response to the to COVID-19 pandemic, which has devastated Gaza in recent months. The brave but ill-equipped medical staff he left behind promised to redouble their efforts to fight the pandemic in his memory ”.
Outside of Gaza, the rights expert also noted that occupied East Jerusalem has also witnessed intense clashes between Palestinians and Israelis over access to the Al Aqsa mosque to pray during the last days of the holy month of Ramadan.
There was also “a sustained campaign” by Israeli settler organizations to continue evicting Palestinian families from their homes in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, which Mr. Lynk described as the “fire” that started the latest violence.
Fragmentation of the West Bank
Echoing the concerns of the High Commissioner on Violence in the Occupied West Bank, the Special Rapporteur also noted that demonstrations since 10 May at events in Gaza and East Jerusalem have resulted in the killing of 27 Palestinians by security forces. and the wounding of 6,800.
“The 2.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank live on 167 fragmented islands of land, separated from the world and from each other by Israeli checkpoints, walls, settlements and roads reserved for settlers,” Lynk said. “Their collective future is being devoured before their eyes by the 240 Israeli settlements sprawling over their lands.”
Defending its actions, the Israeli delegation justified the attacks in Gaza, claiming that Hamas had fired more than 4,400 rockets “at Israeli civilians” in a 10-day period starting May 10.
The Israeli ambassador insisted that Hamas had fired rockets “indiscriminately, targeting civilians, to kill as many innocent people as possible. Israel takes all steps to adhere to the principles of distinction, proportionality and necessity. We do this not only because of our obligations under the Armed Conflict Act, but also because it is our moral duty to protect innocent lives. ”