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By Lisa Schlein
12 January 2009
The 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council strongly condemns Israel for its military operation in Gaza and for what it said was gravely violating the human rights of the Palestinians. The resolution also calls for an independent fact-finding mission to investigate all violations of international human rights law.
|Palestinians who fled their homes eat at a United Nations school where they are sheltering in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, 12 Jan. 2009|
The resolution was drafted by Arab, Asian and African countries. It passed by a vote of 33 in favor, one against and 13 abstentions.
Canada was dissenting vote
The sole dissenting vote was cast by Canada, which complained that the text was unbalanced. The Canadian Ambassador said the text called for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces, but made no mention of the Hamas rocket attacks against civilians in Israel. The United States is not a member of the Council.
The resolution demands that Israel, the occupying power, withdraw its military forces immediately from Gaza. It demands Israel stop targeting civilians and medical facilities and open all borders.
The Council also calls for an investigation of the bombing of U.N. facilities in Gaza, including schools, that resulted in the killing of Palestinian civilians, including women and children.
Israel complains resolution is not balanced
The Israeli Ambassador calls the resolution unbalanced. He says it does not reflect the realities in the Gaza Strip and does no service to the cause of peace or to the human suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.
He received strong support from a number of Jewish and other human rights groups. A representative for the group United Nations Watch, Hillel Neuer, notes the resolution dismisses the quantity and quality of Israeli suffering under Hamas terror.
"In the past eight years, Hamas and its allies fired 10,000 rockets against the civilians in Israel," he noted. "Which sovereign country represented here would tolerate such aggression and allow a terrorist group sworn to its destruction to play Russian roulette with its women and children. No one. The truth is that Hamas is committing a double war crime, deliberately targeting Israeli civilians and hiding behind their own Palestinian civilians."
Amnesty International concerned about humanitarian catastrophe
Amnesty International representative Peter Splinter notes a humanitarian catastrophe is continuing to unfold in Gaza. He says 1.5 million civilians are trapped and exposed to death and destruction. He says the violence is continuing and the death toll in Gaza is mounting alarmingly.
"As the U.N. body with primary responsibility for the protection of human rights, this Council must demand that all parties to the current conflict, Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, immediately end all unlawful attacks against civilians and other serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. It must demand measures to relieve civilians in Gaza and an end to the indiscriminate rocket attacks that endangers civilians in southern Israel," he said.
Splinter says the Council should call for Israel to allow human rights and humanitarian workers and journalists immediate unfettered access to Gaza. He adds, there should be full accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The resolution was backed by Russia, China and Latin American states on the U.N. Human Rights Council.