UN rights experts call on Western powers to halt arms exports to Israel as all eyes on Gaza ceasefire talks in Paris - as it happened

Ahram Online , Friday 23 Feb 2024

Intelligence chiefs from Egypt, the United States, and Israel and the prime minister of Qatar are set to meet in Paris on Friday to resume talks to reach a ceasefire and prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel.

Friday Prayers Gaza
Palestinians perform the Friday noon prayer at the Al-Hoda mosque that was destroyed in Israeli bombardment in mid February, after worshippers cleared rubble to make space for praying, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 23, 2024. AFP


20:30 It was another dark but sobering day for the Palestinians in Gaza.

Palestinians divided the day between rushing to perform the Prayer for the Absent after burying more of their loved ones killed in Israeli airstrikes before catching the Friday Noon Prayers - in search of moments of serenity amid the nonstop madness of the Israeli army.

See the full gallery here

19:30 Speaking to the New York Times (NYT) on condition of anonymity, Israeli security officials said Hamas still has formidable resources despite all the losses incurred by the group after nearly five months of Israeli strikes against the group.

These officials added that Israel's plan to achieve the stated goal of eliminating Hamas would significantly prolong the war.

Some US officials said they believe that Israel will not be able to eliminate the group's military capability in the foreseeable future, according to the NYT report.

Israeli security officials anticipate a long-term campaign to defeat Hamas.

In the north of Gaza, Israeli forces have been sweeping the area to dismantle Hamas's command and control structure.

However, despite Israeli progress, Hamas still maintains a presence, with an estimated 5,000 fighters in the region, according to the report.

The Israeli army has relentlessly targeted Hamas's underground tunnel network in and around the southern city of Khan Younis. 

Still, the majority of the tunnel network remains intact despite Israel's claims key command and control centres have been destroyed.

Hamas fighters have avoided direct confrontations, preferring to rely on swift attack and return to their underground positions.

The report comes as Israeli PM Netanyahu warmongers about his intentions to achieve "total victory" over Hamas by launching a ground assault on Rafah in the southernmost part of the strip.

It also comes as Israel sent top intelligence chiefs to Paris for Gaza ceasefire talks with Egyptian, Qatari and US officials amid increasing global condemnation of the Israeli war on the strip.

18:30 An Israeli airstrike ended the lives of 60 people from the families of Yaghi and Attar in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza on Friday afternoon.

Emergency rescue workers rushed to the scene to search for survivors.

The ongoing Israeli wholesale killing of civilians is pushing the death toll nearer and nearer to 30,000 by the hour.

Earlier on Friday, the Palestinian health ministry said 29,514 Palestinians have been killed and 69,616 people have been injured - most of them women and children - in Israeli airstrikes and bombardment since the start of Israel's war on Gaza on 7 October.

Warning - Graphic Content - This video posted by Quds News Network depicts a Palestinian child grasping for breath inside a hospital in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike.



17:30 Representatives of Norway, Oman, and Pakistan argued that Israeli occupation was unlawful and unjust on the third day of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion hearings.

Pakistan: Restore access to Jerusalem Holy Sites

Pakistan's Minister for Law and Justice Ahmed Irfan Aslam emphasized that Israel's prolonged occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 has violated the status quo in the third holiest site in Islam, which guaranteed freedom of worship in Jerusalem for followers of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

Oman:75-Year Occupation and dispossession

Oman's representatives at the ICJ shed light on the suffering endured by Palestinians under Israeli occupation, calling for an immediate end to its illegal presence in Palestinian territories since 1967.

Abdullah bin Salim bin Hamad Al Harthi, Oman's ambassador to The Netherlands, emphasized that Palestinians have endured over 75 years of occupation, oppression, injustice, and daily humiliation at the hands of Israel.

Norway: Palestinian statehood long overdue

Representatives of Norway told the UN high court that Israel had breached commitments made to the international community regarding the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Rolf Einar Fife, Norway's ambassador to the EU, emphasized that Israel is under "clear legal obligations" to actively contribute to the realization of a viable State of Palestine.

Fife pointed out that Israel's occupation of Palestine, including the settlement of approximately 700,000 Israelis in the West Bank, is not compatible with the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Read the full report here

16:30 A group of United Nations (UN) experts has issued a strong call for an immediate cessation of arms exports to Israel, stating that any transfer of weapons or ammunition to be used in Gaza would likely violate international humanitarian law. 

The group of experts who issued this statement includes more than 30 high-level officials working for various bodies including; Ben Saul, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, and Claudia Mahler, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons. 

The statement was also endorsed by several high-level UN officials including; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Nicolas Levrat, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; and David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment.

The experts emphasized that all states have a responsibility to ensure respect for international humanitarian law and refrain from transferring weapons or ammunition if there is a clear risk that they will be used to violate international humanitarian law.

The experts hailed the recent decision by a Dutch appeals court that ordered the Netherlands to halt the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel.

The court found that there was a "clear risk" that the parts could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law.

It cited extensive evidence of civilian casualties, destruction of infrastructure, hunger, and displacement in Gaza, as well as the use of imprecise weapons and incriminating statements by Israeli commanders and soldiers.

The figures presented by the experts are alarming, with over 29,514 Palestinians killed and 69,616 injured in Gaza since 7 October 2023, the majority of whom are women and children.

The experts accused Israel of repeated failures to comply with international law.

They stressed that States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty have additional obligations under the treaty to deny arms exports if they have knowledge that the arms would be used to commit international crimes or if there is an overriding risk of serious violations of international humanitarian law.

They added that European Union member states are also bound by EU arms export control law.

Read the full report here

Technicians inspect an Israeli Air Force F-16 jet at the Ovda airbase near Eilat, southern Israel. AP


15:30 A group of lawyers are filing a criminal complaint with the German federal prosecutor against senior German politicians, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, accusing them of “aiding and abetting” the genocide, which is being committed by Israel in Gaza.

The German government, led by Chancellor Scholz, has wholeheartedly endorsed the Israeli war on Gaza - militarily and politically - since 7 October.

Berlin has opposed all calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the war, citing "Israel's right to defend itself."

It has also argued in court against the genocide case filed by South Africa against Israel at the ICJ.

Moreover, the German government has cracked down on demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinians since the start of the war.

German riot police officers push back Pro-Palestinian demonstrators as they protest outside the Foreign Ministry in Berlin on October 18, 2023. AFP

15:00 Representatives of Norway told the ICJ that Israel had breached commitments made to the international community regarding the establishment of a Palestinian state.

This came on the third day of court hearings on the legality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Rolf Einar Fife, Norway's ambassador to the EU, emphasized that Israel is under "clear legal obligations" to actively contribute to the realization of a viable State of Palestine.

Fife pointed out that Israel's occupation of Palestine, including the settlement of approximately 700,000 Israelis in the West Bank, is not compatible with the establishment of a Palestinian state.

He raised concerns about what he described as the occupation's "permanent and irreversible" impact on the prospects of a Palestinian state.

In addition, Kristian Jervell, director general of the legal department of Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the Israeli occupation is effectively equivalent to annexation. 

14:00 Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry told his British counterpart  David Cameron that Cairo pins great hopes on Britain to exercise pressure on Israel to go back on its plans to launch a military offensive on Rafah and cooperate with international efforts to agree to an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza war.

This came during a meeting between the two top diplomats on the sidelines of the foreign ministers meeting of G20 in Rio de Janeiro.

Shoukry expressed to Cameron regret over Western countries' disregard for the enormity of the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip.

He also underlined the importance of the role played by the UNRWA to provide life-saving assistance to the Palestinians.

13:50 Quds News Network posted a grim video depicting mothers and children in northern Gaza sorting through what appeared to be a gig bunch of unedible potatoes for some edible ones.

The UN and humanitarian aid groups have been warning that the ongoing Israeli total blockade on food and fuel in north Gaza has created famine conditions among tens of thousands of Palestinians in the area.



13:45 Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, calls for an immediate permanent ceasefire in the Israeli war on Gaza at a recent solidarity rally in the UK.



13:30 The UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned Thursday it has reached a critical juncture as it struggles to cope with the war in Gaza.

"It is with profound regret that I must now inform you that UNRWA has reached a breaking point," chief Philippe Lazzarini said, as donors freeze funding, Israel exerts pressure to dismantle the agency and humanitarian needs soar.

"The Agency's ability to fulfil the mandate given through General Assembly resolution 302 is now seriously threatened," he said in a letter to the assembly.

That is the resolution under which the agency was founded in 1949, following the creation of Israel.

UNRWA employs some 30,000 people working in the occupied territories, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

Several countries -- including the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan -- have suspended funding to UNRWA in response to Israeli allegations that some of its staff participated in the 7 October attack on Israel.

In an interview published over the weekend Lazzarini said $438 million has been frozen -- the equivalent of more than half of expected funding for 2024. He said Israel was waging a concerted effort to destroy UNRWA.

The UN fired the employees accused by Israel and has begun an internal probe of UNRWA.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also tasked an independent panel with assessing whether UNRWA acts neutrally in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Lazzarini asserted Thursday that Israel has provided no evidence against the 12 former employees it accuses, but 16 countries have suspended funding anyway.

"I have cautioned donors and host countries that without new funding, UNRWA operations across the region will be severely compromised from March," he said.

He added: "I fear we are on the edge of a monumental disaster with grave implications for regional peace, security and human rights."

13:00 Ceasefire talks set in Paris on Friday will feature the Head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service Abbas Kamel, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, CIA Director William Burns, Mossad Director David Barnea, and Director of the Israeli Security Agency (Shabak) Ronen Bar.

12:00 The Palestinian health ministry said 29,514 Palestinians have been killed and 69,616 people have been injured since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza on 7 October.

More than 100 people were killed in Israeli bombardment and airstrikes everywhere in the strip.

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