Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More Reaction to Israel's Raid on the Humanitarian Ships Headed for Gaza

The United Nations Human Rights Council is holding an urgent debate in Geneva, taking up the issue of  Israeli's raid on a convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid and heading for Gaza.

Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang expressed shock “that humanitarian aid would be met with such violence, and we unequivocally condemn what appears to be a disproportionate use of force.”  She again appealed for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, causing the suffering of 1.5 million Palestinians, which she characterized as “an affront to human dignity.”  Ms. Kang expressed hope that “the Israeli Government will take the necessary decisive actions to demonstrate to the international community a clear commitment to abide by international law.”

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that “nothing can justify the appalling outcome” of the military operation, which killed at least 10 people and injured dozens of others.  She joined Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Security Council and others in calling for a probe into the operation, underscoring the need for accountability.  Ms. Pillay called on the Israeli Government to heed the “almost unanimous international view that the continued blockade of Gaza is both inhumane and illegal.”  The blockade, she pointed out, “lies at the heart of so many of the problems plaguing the Israel-Palestine situation, as does the impression that the Israeli Government treats international law with perpetual disdain.”  Without the blockade, the High Commissioner noted, “there would be no need for flotillas like this.”

At yesterday’s Human Rights Council debate, which heard from dozens of speakers, Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar of Israel expressed regret over the loss of life in yesterday’s incident, stressing the need for support of moderate parties to build on the momentum generated by the recent start of proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians.  He pointed the finger at a Turkish group called Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) for what he said was a pre-meditated act against Israeli forces. The flotilla, he said, was not on a humanitarian mission but was rather seeking to provoke and incite, and convoy passengers had used knives and clubs, shooting two Israeli soldiers.

For his part, Imad Zuhairi, representing Palestine, called for legal action to be taken over the operation, saying that Israel’s actions would not help to strengthen the ongoing peace process.  Mr. Zuhairi called for a fact-finding commission to look into the raid and underscored the need for Israel to free all those who have been detained and allow the relief supplies on the convoys to reach Gaza.

Also speaking out against yesterday’s events was General Assembly President Ali Treki, who said in a statement issued in New York that he is “deeply shocked over this inhuman and totally unacceptable aggression and use of force against humanitarian personnel from around the world, and which is a flagrant violation of all principles and rules of international law.”  Dr. Treki urged an “end to impunity,” underlining the importance of an immediate and independent probe into yesterday’s events. He also repeated the call by UN officials and others to lift the blockade.

For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) again appealed for unimpeded access of life-saving medical supplies into Gaza.

Hundreds of items of equipment – including CT scanners, x-ray machines and laboratory supplies – have been waiting to enter the area for up to a year, said Tony Laurance, who heads the agency’s Gaza office.  "It is impossible to maintain a safe and effective health-care system under the conditions of siege that have been in place now since June 2007,” he said. “It is not enough to simply ensure supplies like drugs and consumables. Medical equipment and spare parts must be available and be properly maintained.”  Mr. Laurance also said the blockade prevents the sending of medical equipment, such as defibrillators, out of Gaza for routine safety inspections.  “Such disruptions and the fragmented supply chain brings and an unpredictability in scheduling live-saving procedures at a time and place when they are need to save lives,” he stressed.

(adapted from a UN Press Release)

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