28 December 2008 The Security Council on Sunday called on Israel and the Palestinians to immediately end all violence, as Israeli airstrikes in response to rocket attacks by militants in Gaza reportedly killed 270 people and wounded more than 600 in the Strip.
“The Members of the Security Council expressed serious concern at the escalation of the situation in Gaza and called for an immediate halt to all violence,” according to a statement issued to the press following emergency closed-door talks late last night.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a similar call yesterday in a statement in which he voiced his deep alarm at the “heavy violence and bloodshed in Gaza, and the continuation of violence in southern Israel.”
In another statement issued today, Mr. Ban “deplores that violence is continuing today, and he strongly urges once again an immediate stop to all acts of violence.”
He also voiced his sadness at Palestinian casualties, among them eight trainees and one staff member of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and one Israeli casualty.
In its statement, the Council called on the parties to “stop immediately all military activities,” and stressed the need for the restoration of calm “which will open the way for finding a political solution to the problems existing in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement.”
The 15-member body also called for all parties to address the serious humanitarian and economic needs in Gaza and to take necessary measures, including opening of border crossings, to ensure that the 1.5 million Palestinians living there can get the food, fuel, medicine and other critical supplies that they need.
Some supplies did manage to get into Gaza on Friday, for the first time in almost ten days, after Israel opened a few of the crossings which it had kept closed citing rocket and other attacks by militants from Gaza.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay also called on Israel to lift the air, sea and ground blockade imposed on Gaza, while voicing her grave concern about the escalating violence there and the enormous loss of life.
“While condemning the rocket attacks by Hamas that led to the death of one Israeli civilian, she also strongly condemned Israel’s disproportionate use of force resulting in the reported death of more than 270, a large number of which were civilians, and the wounding of over 600 persons,” according to a news release issued today by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Ms. Pillay called on Israel’s leaders to uphold the principles of international humanitarian law, especially those relating to proportionality in the use of military force and the prevention of collective punishment and the targeting of civilians.
Likewise, UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories Richard Falk said the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza represent “severe and massive violations” of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions.
“Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful,” he noted in a statement. “But that illegality does not give rise to any Israeli right, neither as the Occupying Power nor as a sovereign State, to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response.”
General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto, in a statement issued last night, said that “the behaviour by Israel in bombarding Gaza is simply the commission of wanton aggression by a very powerful State against a territory that [it] illegally occupies.”
He stated that “the time has come to take firm action if the UN does not want to be rightly accused of complicity by omission.”
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