UN Human Rights Council to hold special session on Israel’s actions in Gaza

13 November 2006 –

The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Wednesday in response to Israel’s recent military actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent attack that killed 19 civilians and injured 60 others in Beit Hanoun in the Northern Gaza Strip.

The special session, convened after a request by the Ambassador of Bahrain on behalf of the Group of Arab States and the Ambassador of Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, will be the third called since the new enhanced Council came into being in June.

All of them have been on Israel. The first was held in July on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and the second in August Israel’s attacks in Lebanon.

The Human Rights Council meeting on the latest developments will also follow the defeat, through a United States veto, of a resolution in the Security Council on Saturday on the same issue.

Meanwhile an independent United Nations human rights expert has rejected Israel’s explanation that its artillery shelling of Beit Hanoun last week was a mistake, saying it indicated premeditation.

“Since 25 June 2006, the most recent Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip, I continue to receive alarming reports about deliberate attacks by Israeli forces resulting in the destruction of homes, civilian property and infrastructures in the Gaza Strip,” Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, Miloon Kothari, said in a statement.

“The explanation by Israeli authorities that this wantonly criminal act was a mistake is unacceptable,” he added of the Beit Hanoun attack. “The shelling and subsequent killing of civilians indicates a premeditated military tactic constituting a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people.”

Special Rapporteurs are unpaid independent advisory experts with a mandate from the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. Israel began its latest action in Gaza on 25 June after one of its soldiers was kidnapped by Palestinian militants.

Mr. Kothari said “forced evictions and unjustifiable destruction” by Israeli forces constitute breaches of international human rights laws.

“Israel’s practice of confiscating Palestinian land, demolishing Palestinian homes, closure and the implantation of illegal settlements also continues throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem,” he added, calling on Israel to cease these practices and reinstate confiscated lands in the interest of regional peace and security.

“These latest killings by Israel must act as a call for the international community to awaken from the inaction and hesitation that has marked its attention to the grave crisis in Gaza,” he said, calling for an international independent investigation and the deployment of international forces in the region.

He also urged the international community “to reconsider the continuation of military cooperation with Israel in light of the overwhelming evidence of violations of a range of human rights, including the right to adequate housing.”

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