Israel earns flak over Gaza bloodbath; US defends it

Saudi Arabia seeks UNHRC panel to probe Israeli atrocities


ISRAEL was sharply criticized at a UN human rights body on Friday for its killings of protesters in Gaza and treatment of the Palestinians, but Washington came to its defense.

The special session of the Human Rights Council was convened in Geneva after the bloodiest day for Palestinians in years last Monday, when 60 were killed by Israeli gunfire during demonstrations that Israel said included attempts to breach its frontier fence.

“Nobody has been made safer by the horrific events of the past week,” UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein told the Council.

He said Israeli forces had killed 106 Palestinians, including 15 children, since March 30. More than 12,000 were injured, at least 3,500 by live ammunition. Israel was an occupying power under international law, obliged to protect the people of Gaza and ensure their welfare, he said.

“But they are, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death; deprived of dignity; dehumanized by the Israeli authorities to such a point it appears officials do not even consider that these men and women have a right, as well as every reason, to protest.”

Israel says the deaths took place in protests organized by Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, which intentionally provoked the violence, an accusation Hamas denies.

Addressing the Council, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Abdul Aziz Al-Wasel condemned the vicious aggression by the Israeli occupying forces against unarmed Palestinian people.

He urged all the HRC member states to adopt by consensus the resolution before the Council calling for the formation of an international commission to investigate into Israeli violations.

Al-Wasel reiterated the Kingdom’s firm stance on the Palestinian cause and its support for the Palestinians in the restoration of their legitimate rights in accordance with international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. He called on the international community to exert all efforts to put an immediate end to the violence and killing against the Palestinian people, and to urge the Israeli occupation forces to carry out the relevant international legitimacy resolutions seeking an end to the occupation as well as to stop violations such as confiscation of land and the Judaization of Islamic and Christian holy sites.

Israel and the United States complain that the Human Rights Council, made up of 47 states chosen by the General Assembly, has a permanent anti-Israel bias because of the disproportionate number of countries hostile to Israel with UN seats.

Israel’s ambassador Aviva Raz Shechter said the Council had relapsed to its worst form of anti-Israel obsession. The call for an inquiry was “politically motivated and won’t improve the situation on the ground by even one iota,” she said.

“The loss of life could have been avoided had Hamas refrained from sending terrorists to attack Israel under the cover of the riots, while exploiting its own civilian population as human shields,” she said. “It is Israel, certainly not Hamas, which makes a real effort to minimize casualties among Palestinian civilians.”

The United States has stood by Israel during the past week’s violence, which coincided with the opening of a new US embassy in occupied Jerusalem. US.chargé d’affaires Theodore Allegra said the Council was ignoring the real culprit of the violence: Hamas.

“The one sided action proposed by the Council today only further shows that the Human Rights Council is indeed a broken body,” he said.

In Gaza, residents told Reuters that Israel deserved its international criticism.

“Israel must be dismantled as a state and its leaders must stand international trial for their massacres against us since 1948,” said Ibrahim Abu Galeb, 65, a refugee living in southern Gaza. “Israel occupied our land, displaced our people, killed our children’s dreams to live safely and it is behind our sickness and poverty.”

Erdogan rallies

Muslim leaders

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday hosted Muslim leaders for an Istanbul summit to condemn Israel over the killing of Gaza protesters, seeking to bridge divisions with the Islamic world and issue a strong message.

Erdogan has reacted with unbridled fury to the killing by Israeli forces on Monday of 60 Palestinians on the Gaza border, accusing Israel of “genocide” and being run as an “apartheid state”.

Erdogan already staged an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in December last year to denounce US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“We must give the toughest response ... to the crime against humanity committed by Israel,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a meeting of OIC foreign ministers ahead of the summit.

A draft communique prepared for the summit calls for “international protection for the Palestinian people” and condemns Israel’s “criminal” actions against “unarmed civilians”.

The text also accuses the US administration of “encouraging the crimes of Israel.”

Rafah crossing

opens for Ramadan

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has made a rare decision to open the Rafah crossing with Gaza for a month, allowing Palestinians to cross during the holy period of Ramadan.

The decision to keep the crossing open was taken “to alleviate the suffering” of residents in the Palestinian enclave, Sisi said on Facebook late Thursday.

The Rafah crossing is Gaza’s only gateway to the outside world not controlled by Israel, but Egypt has largely sealed it in recent years, citing security threats.

The last extended opening lasted three weeks in 2013, while usually Palestinians are able to cross for a few dozen days a year.

Previous openings of Rafah have been cut short by violence in the Sinai peninsula or with authorities giving other reasons.

— Agencies