UN rights council to mull international probe after Israel's Gaza campaign

AFP , Tuesday 25 May 2021

Israeli air strikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people, the health ministry in Gaza says

Gaza Strip
A Palestinian woman flashes the victory sign as volunteers and municipal workers clear the rubble of the Hanadi compound, recently destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City's Rimal district, on May 25, 2021 AFP

The UN Human Rights Council will consider launching a broad, international investigation into abuses in Israel's latest campaign on Gaza Strip and also into "systematic" abuses, according to a proposal tabled Tuesday.

The draft resolution will be discussed during a special session of the council Thursday, requested amid 11 days of Isral's military offensive on Gaza this month.

The text, presented by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, calls for the UN top rights body to "urgently establish an ongoing independent, international commission of inquiry... in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and in Israel."

The investigators, the text said, should probe "all alleged violations and abuses" of international law linked to Israel's crackdown on Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem that was followed by its campaign on Gaza. 

Before a truce took hold last Friday, Israeli air strikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people in 11 days of bombarding the coastal enclave from May 10, the health ministry in Gaza says.

Rocket and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, medics say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.

But the draft text goes far beyond the most recent Israeli campaign, also calling for investigators to probe "underlying root causes of recurrent tensions and instability, including systematic discrimination and repression based on group identity".

The investigation should focus on establishing facts and gather evidence and other material that could be used in legal proceedings, and as far as possible should identify perpetrators to ensure they are held accountable, it said.

"Long-standing and systemic impunity for international law violations has thwarted justice, created a protection crisis and undermined all efforts to achieve a just and peaceful solution," the draft text said.

It remains unclear whether there will be enough support at the Human Rights Council to pass the resolution.

Twenty of the council's 47 members were among the 66 countries that backed holding Thursday's special session, which was requested by Pakistan and the Palestinian authority.

The rights council holds three regular sessions each year, but can hold special sessions if at least a third of members support the idea.

Thursday will mark the 30th extraordinary meeting of the United Nations' top rights body since its creation 15 years ago, and it will be the ninth focused on Israel.

When the special session was announced last week, Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel's ambassador in Geneva, urged member states to oppose it.

"The convening of yet another special session by the Human Rights Council targeting Israel is testament to the clear anti-Israeli agenda of this body," she said on Twitter.

Israel is in fact the only country that is systematically discussed at every regular council session, with a dedicated special agenda item.

That Agenda Item 7 was one of the main reasons that the United States under former president Donald Trump decided to leave the council.

His successor Joe Biden has returned the United States to the fold as an observer, with an eye on membership, but his administration remains deeply critical of the council's "disproportionate focus on Israel".

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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