Saturday, May 25, 2024

UN rights council demands halt to weapons sales to Israel

The United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday demanded a halt in all arms sales to Israel, highlighting warnings of "genocide" in Israel's war on the Gaza Strip, which has so far killed more than 33,000 people.

The resolution — which passed with 28 of the council’s 47 member states voting in favour, six opposed and 13 abstaining — marked the first time the United Nations top rights body has taken a position on the bloodiest-ever war to beset the besieged Palestinian territory.

Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, slammed the resolution as “a stain for the Human Rights Council and for the UN as a whole”.

The strongly worded text called on countries to “cease the sale, transfer and diversion of arms, munitions and other military equipment to Israel… to prevent further violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights”.

It stressed that the International Court of Justice ruled in January “that there is a plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza.

Friday’s resolution, which was brought forward by Pakistan on behalf of all Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states except Albania, also called for “an immediate ceasefire” and “for immediate emergency humanitarian access and assistance”.

“We need you all to wake up and stop this genocide, a genocide televised around the world,” Palestinian ambassador Ibrahim Mohammad Khraishi told the council before the vote.

Shahar meanwhile told council members that “a vote yes is a vote for Hamas”.

Key ally, Washington, heeded Israel’s call to vote no, as did Germany, Argentina, Bulgaria, Malawi and Paraguay.

US ambassador Michele Taylor agreed that “far too many civilians have been killed in this conflict and that every civilian death is a tragedy”, acknowledging that “Israel has not done enough to mitigate civilian harm”.

But she stated Washington could not support the text, which she said contained “many problematic elements”, including its failure to specifically condemn Hamas and its October 7 attacks.

Friday’s vote came after the UN Security Council in New York last week also finally passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire, thanks to an abstention from Washington.

The war in Gaza war began after Hamas’s October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 people in Israel.

Palestinian fighters also took more than 250 hostages on October 7, and 130 remain in Gaza, including 34 who the army says are dead.

Since then, Israel’s relentless military assault has killed at least 33,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the besieged enclave.

While the rights council resolution did not name Hamas, it did condemn the firing of rockets at Israeli civilian areas and demanded “the immediate release of all remaining hostages”.

It repeatedly named Israel, demanding that it end its occupation of all Palestinian territories and “immediately lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip and all other forms of collective punishment”.

The text, which was revised late on Thursday removing several references to genocide, continued to express “grave concern at statements by Israeli officials amounting to incitement to genocide”.

And it urged countries to “prevent the continued forcible transfer of Palestinians within and from Gaza”.

It warned in particular “against any large-scale military operations in the city of Rafah” in the south of the densely populated Gaza Strip, where well over one million civilians are sheltering, warning of “devastating humanitarian consequences”.

The resolution also condemned “the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in Gaza”, where the UN has warned that famine is looming.

The text insisted on the “imperative of credible, timely and comprehensive accountability for all violations of international law” in Gaza.

It called on UN war crimes investigators — tasked with probing the rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories even before October 7 — to look into all “direct and indirect transfer or sale of arms, munitions, parts, components and dual use items to Israel … and “analyse the legal consequences of these transfers”.

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