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Le Conseil des droits de l'homme ouvre les travaux de sa session extraordinaire consacrée à la situation à Gaza - Communiqué de presse (23 janvier 2008) Français
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Source: Human Rights Council
23 January 2008



HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL OPENS SPECIAL SESSION ON VIOLATIONS STEMMING FROM ISRAELI INCURSIONS IN OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY

Human Rights Council
23 January 2008


High Commissioner for Human Rights Calls for an End to Restrictions on Aid and Essential Supplies to Gaza;
Underscores International Community's Responsibility to Protect

The Human Rights Council today opened its sixth Special Session on "human rights violations emanating from Israeli military incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent ones in occupied Gaza and the West Bank town of Nablus", hearing United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour express her concern over the escalating violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, which added to the already critical situation in the Gaza Strip, where 1.4 million people were living under the most abhorrent conditions.

Ms. Arbour said that in December 2007, 58 Palestinians in Gaza had reportedly been killed due to the conflict, making December the month with the highest Gaza Strip death toll in 2007. Israeli military operations continued also in the West Bank and in particular in the city of Nablus. The Israeli practice of collective punishment, disproportionate use of force, and targeted killings continued, as did the Palestinian militants' practice of indiscriminate firing of mortars and rockets into Israel. The escalating violence had added to the already critical situation in the Gaza Strip, where all legitimate trade with Gaza had come virtually to a halt. The level of desperation became even more starkly apparent this morning when thousands of Palestinians poured out of Gaza into Egypt rushing to buy food, fuel, medicines and other supplies that had become scarce in Gaza. On Sunday, 20 January, Gaza's main power plant shut down.

The High Commissioner exhorted Israel to completely lift all restrictions to the free flow of desperately needed aid and essential supplies to Gaza. While States had the primary responsibility to protect all persons under their jurisdiction from war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing, the international community shared the responsibility to protect civilians, in particular where the authorities concerned were unable or unwilling to do so.

Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, said the current occupation, siege and raids into Gaza represented war crimes. The perpetrators should be brought to international justice. Israel's impunity marked a discourse in international law granting it the most favoured nation status, which exempted it from accountability before international law. The international community should intervene and put an end to the Israeli occupation and the suffering of the people.

In the general debate, delegations deplored the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and called for an immediate end to Israel's disproportionate use of military force, as well as the lifting of the siege of Gaza. Speakers agreed that they had to address a clear message to Israel; the impunity which it enjoyed encouraged Israel to pursue its violations. A speaker said it was deeply frustrating that those incidents had occurred at a time when new political initiatives, both in the European Union and in the United States, were taking place to revive the stalled peace process. Many concurred that such actions undermined the process, while others felt it belied Israel's real aim to deliberately abort all Arab and international peace efforts. A number of speakers expressed concern about indiscriminate attacks that harmed civilians on both sides. A partial approach to the current situation, without a call for moderation to all parties involved in the hostilities, could jeopardize the legitimacy of the Council, as well as the efficacy of any decision taken on the issue, a speaker warned. All speakers, however, agreed in calling on Israel to guarantee free access of humanitarian services and supplies to Gaza.

Speaking in the general debate were representatives of Syria (on behalf of the Group of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Egypt (on behalf of the African Group), Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Slovenia (on behalf of the European Union), Indonesia, Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Zambia, China, Jordan, Nicaragua, the Russian Federation, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Senegal, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Qatar, South Africa, Switzerland, Bolivia, Canada and Angola.

This sixth Special Session is being held at the request of the Group of Arab States and the Group of the Organization of Islamic Conference.

The Council will resume its Special Session at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 24 January, when it will continue the debate and take action on a related draft resolution before closing the session.



Statement by High Commissioner for Human Rights

LOUISE ARBOUR, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that, in December 2007, 58 Palestinians in Gaza had reportedly been killed due to the conflict, making December the month with the highest Gaza Strip death toll in 2007. The number of wounded had also increased. Israeli military operations continued also in the West Bank and in particular in the city of Nablus, where Palestinian security forces had been attempting to restore order. Although differing in scope and proportions, operations that had failed to respect international humanitarian law had resulted in the loss of lives of Palestinian and Israeli civilians. The Israeli practice of collective punishment, disproportionate use of force, and targeted killings continued, as did the Palestinian militants' practice of indiscriminate firing of mortars and rockets into Israel. According to Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations, last year, more than a third of Palestinians killed were civilians.

The escalating violence had added to the already critical situation in the Gaza Strip, where, as the Secretary-General had recently stated, 1.4 million people were living under the most abhorrent conditions. With few exceptions, all legitimate trade with Gaza had come virtually to a halt. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that 80 per cent of Gazans lived under the poverty line and depended on food and direct assistance provided by aid agencies. The level of desperation became even more starkly apparent this morning when thousands of Palestinians poured out of Gaza into Egypt rushing to buy food, fuel, medicines and other supplies that had become scarce in Gaza. Masked gunmen had blown dozens of holes in the wall on the border to facilitate passage. The World Health Organization had highlighted a serious shortage of essential drugs, as well as increasing difficulties for patients requiring emergency care to exit Gaza, sometimes resulting in the death of patients concerned. Access to essential services such as water, waste-water systems and energy was becoming more uncertain. On Sunday, 20 January, Gaza's main power plant shut down, and could resume working properly only when the provision of fuel was regularly allowed. Ms. Arbour exhorted the Government of Israel to completely lift all restrictions to the free flow of desperately needed aid and essential supplies to Gaza. She reiterated what a number of experts had already pointed out with regard to Israeli action in Gaza: the use of collective punishment was strictly prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

While aid agencies and the donor community were committed to providing humanitarian support to Gaza, such aid, by itself, could not reverse the situation, Ms. Arbour underscored. The denial of the basic and fundamental rights could not be compensated for by permitting a trickle of charity. All parties concerned should put an end to the vicious spiral of violence before it became unstoppable. To that end, they had to ensure accountability for breaches of international humanitarian law and violations of international human rights law through credible, independent and transparent investigations. Perpetrators had to be brought to justice and victims had to receive adequate reparation. For its part, the international community had to intensify its efforts to ensure that the human rights dimension of the conflict was properly addressed regardless of the development of a political settlement. While States had the primary responsibility to protect all persons under their jurisdiction or control from war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing, the international community shared the responsibility to protect civilians in particular where and when the authorities concerned were unable or unwilling to do so.

Statement by Concerned Country

MOHAMMED ABU-KOASH (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, expressed its thanks to all delegations that had supported the call for this current Special Session. The current occupation, siege and raids into Gaza represented war crimes. The perpetrators should be brought to international justice. The international community was urged to act. If Jewish cities were exposed to such civil annihilation it would have prompted immediate international political, judicial and even military enforcement on the perpetrators. Israel was writing another chapter of terror, massacres and ethnic cleansing, which constituted the pillars of its own creation. Israel's impunity marked a discourse in international law granting it the most favoured nation status, which exempted it from accountability before international law. Any attempts to curb the flagrant violations were immediately dubbed as anti-Semitic. Israel could not persist indefinitely in deflating genuine and serious efforts by the international community to revive the peace process. The international community should intervene and put an end to the Israeli occupation and the suffering of the Palestinian people

General Statements

FAYSAL KHABBAZ HAMOUI (Syria), speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that given the continued brutal aggression of the Israeli authorities on the Palestinian people, it had been necessary to call on the Human Rights Council to hold a Special Session. They had to address a clear message to Israel that it had to immediately stop its criminal attacks and attempts to smother the Palestinian people by cutting off essential supplies, including food, water and medicines. The Israeli authorities had also continued with their illegal incursions which had resulted in over 90 civilians dead, and turned the Gaza Strip into a huge prison of 1.4 million people. The international community had to condemn Israel in a clear manner and proportionately to the level of its aggression and crimes. The international community had to call on Israel to lift its deadly siege, which Under-Secretary-General John Holmes had called "unjustified and immoral".

The United Nations bodies, especially the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, should condemn Israel and its attacks. So should the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the members of the Quartet. The Arab Group and the Organization of the Islamic Conference called for an end to the silence. They had to act immediately to put an end to actions by those who mocked international human rights and international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions. The real aim of Israel from its aggressions and crimes was in fact to deliberately abort all Arab and international efforts to invigorate the peace process. Israel did not want peace. It did not want to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territory. It did not want to see a Palestinian State, with Jerusalem as its capital. The uprooting of trees, the isolation of Palestinians, the building of settlements and the isolation wall were all proof of that. If they did not act, the international community would witness a real humanitarian catastrophe that was unfolding before its eyes.

SAMEH SHOUKRY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the African Group supported fully the convening of the current Special Session. Grave concern was expressed regarding the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The African Group condemned the recent attacks which constituted violations of human rights as well as international humanitarian law. Israel's current campaign was part of a wider campaign of illegal measures and various forms of collective punishment. The African Group called for an immediate end to the violations and the cessation of Israel's military attacks as well as the lifting of the siege of Gaza. The international community should take necessary measures and provide protection for the Palestinian civilians. The African Group expressed its full solidarity with the Palestinian people. The current military campaign was undermining the efforts at reviving the peace process. All relevant human rights mechanisms were called upon to focus their work and effort to address the situation. The High Commissioner had to assume the duties she was entrusted with. This entailed conducting more visits to the region to assess the situation and reporting more regularly and extensively on all violations emanating from Israel. The earlier Special Sessions on this topic should have served as a strong reminder to Israel that its systematic violations were inadmissible. The continued illegal occupation constituted the worst form of systematic denial of human rights.

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Human Rights Council holding a Special Session for the sixth time to address a situation that required the most urgent attention of the international community. Indeed, this most recent chapter in the history of human rights violations by Israel against the Palestinian people merited the strongest condemnation. They had to find ways to hold Israel accountable and to prevent such actions from occurring in the future. The Non-Aligned Movement strongly condemned the recent military attacks by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, which had resulted in the killing of over 60 people, injured more than 100, and inflicted wide destruction on farms and lands. The Non-Aligned Movement condemned the illegal decision of Israel to close crossing points into Gaza, including for the delivery of basic provisions, such as fuel, with grave consequences for essential services, such as hospitals, and resulting in a great number of victims. By its illegal actions, over the past month, Israel had killed over 200 people, including women and children. Israel's action constituted a grave breach of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and fed a cycle of violence that threatened peace efforts. Such actions by Israel also aggravated the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, where the people continued to be subjected to collective punishment.

The Non-Aligned Movement condemned the fact that Palestinian people had suffered for so long under a brutal occupation, and was seriously concerned about the serious deterioration of the situation on the ground. The Non-Aligned Movement called on the international community and on the Security Council to call upon Israel to cease its aggression and its illegal actions immediately. The Human Rights Council could not ignore the fate of thousands of Palestinian people whose rights were violated on a daily basis by Israel. This Council had an important role to play in ensuring that. Israel was obligated to comply with the Council's resolutions. The High Commissioner for Human Rights should also assume, in full, the responsibilities vis-a-vis this clear case of flagrant and systematic human rights violations.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union was deeply concerned with the current situation and called for an immediate end to violence. The recent developments were particularly regrettable. The suffering of innocent civilians on both sides was deplorable. The Israeli Government should refrain from all activities contrary to international law. The goal remained to establish an independent Palestinian State. The European Union was deeply cognizant of the severe human rights violations in Gaza. Of concern was the recent flooding of Palestinians through the Egyptian border. Current humanitarian conditions remained of great concern. An agreement must be reached. Delivery of European Union funded fuel had resumed yesterday.

GUSTI AGUNG WESAKA PUJA (Indonesia) deplored the recent events that had begun on 6 January 2008 in Gaza in the occupied Palestinian territory and which had since led to the death of many Palestinian civilians. Indonesia was of the view that such repetitious, harsh and disproportionate acts against the Palestinians would not help to create an environment conducive to peace that was recently discussed and sought by the international community in Annapolis. This latest series of violent acts was a testament to the total disregard to the calls as well as the efforts undertaken by the international community to find a lasting peaceful solution.

Of the six Special Sessions of the Council held in the 19 months of its existence, this was the third that had been held regarding Palestine. That could give rise to the question of why Special Sessions were held on Palestine so often. One of the answers would suggest that something very serious had to be happening on the ground that required the repeated attention of the Council. Whatever the case might be, the international community had to fulfil its responsibility to protect the human rights of the Palestinian people, and to that end Indonesia urged all concerned parties to the conflict to exercise restraint and renounce violence in order to create an enabling environment for candid political dialogue. It was Indonesia's fervent hope that the sixth Special Session would produce a concrete and viable result that would put an end to the human rights violations in Palestine.

SAMEH SHOUKRY (Egypt) recalled the grave violations being committed against the Palestinian people who were still suffering from foreign occupation. The violations of human rights were committed by the Israeli military operations inside the occupied Palestinian territories. There were also targeted assassinations. The Council had to assume its responsibility in light of these violations. Egypt strongly condemned all violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws carried out by Israel. Egypt called on the international community and the Council in particular to intervene immediately and call on Israel to stop the siege of Gaza and to protect civilian Palestinians. The impunity which Israel enjoyed encouraged it to pursue its violations. The High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council should send a united and firm message to Israel.

MOHINDER SINGH GROVER (India) said India had consistently stated that a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region could only be achieved through negotiations and dialogue leading to the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine living in peaceful co-existence, within secure and well-defined borders, with the State of Israel. India had welcomed the direct dialogue between the leaders of Palestine and Israel and the renewed efforts and initiative by the international community to resolve Arab-Israeli issues. It was in that context that India had followed with concern the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East, particularly in Gaza and the West Bank, and the continued violence inflicted on innocent civilians, including women and children. India called on all sides to reject violence, respect human rights, and to take immediate steps to defuse the growing tension.

ABDULWAHAB A. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) condemned the violence being perpetrated against the Palestinians by Israel. The international community had not been acting to put an end to that violence. Now, they were facing a new chapter in that violence. The international community had to preserve its credibility by shouldering its responsibility to protect Palestinian civilians from illegal Israeli practices, in particular collective punishment, incursions and bombings of facilities and the murder of civilians and children. Those were grave violations, which demonstrated that the Israelis intended to commit such crimes and to flout international human rights and humanitarian law, and the Council's resolutions. The international community had to respect its moral responsibilities in that regard and put an end to the violations against the Palestinian people.

HSU KING BEE (Malaysia) said that the Annapolis and Paris Conferences had offered hope for the peace process to resume. Regrettably the current situation was breaking the spirit of those two conferences. Malaysia condemned the serious human rights violations by Israel. International law should be respected. It was not the first time that this had happened in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. It was the role of the international community and the Council to put an end to the current situation. The Council should ensure the effective implementation of its earlier decisions.

ENCYLA SINJELA (Zambia) said that Zambia had followed with great concern the developments in Gaza and how, again, as was most often, the people in that area were subjected to death, fear and desperation. Zambia was disturbed by the killing of innocent lives on both sides, and the inappropriate response by Israeli forces to the hostilities. Zambia called on Israel to exercise restraint, considering that it had more sophisticated weapons than the Palestinians. The blockade on Gaza which had led to the closure of the main power plant and made it impossible for humanitarian aid to reach the people of Gaza, making them scramble for essential commodities, was not justified. As it was already, the Palestinians were living under very difficult conditions, such that even a partial easing of the blockade, as was done yesterday, did not make life any better for them. The Israeli Government had therefore to lift the blockade immediately and permanently and to re-open the border crossings to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people.

BO QIAN (China) said China was concerned about the escalation of violence in Gaza and the serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people. The international community had to undertake urgent measures and find ways to stop this cycle of violence. The two parties should immediately cease their military operations and the international community should re-launch a diplomatic process to bring about a just and durable peace. The Human Rights Council had to continue to follow very closely the evolution of the situation of Palestinians.

MOUSA BURAYZAT (Jordan) said the recent severe and repressive Israeli measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular the economic blockade on Gaza, and the recent blocking of basic supplies, such as fuel and humanitarian supplies, had resulted in totally cutting off Gaza. Israel had subjected the whole population to fear, with people daily sleeping in hospital beds or seeking shelter from Israeli air strikes. The unjustified military measures of the Israeli forces had inflicted untold suffering on the Palestinian people, which, together with the economic measures, were disproportionate and could not be justified.

It was an understatement to say that the actions of Israel were violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. To say that Israel was carrying out illegal collective punishment was the minimum that could be said. Israel's illegal and illegitimate measures were also undermining the efforts of the international community, including the United States, to find a path to peace. Jordan expected the Council to do its best to bring an immediate end to the suffering of the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory and to stop the grave human rights violations to which they were subject. By doing so, the Council would not only live up to expectations placed on it, but would contribute to establishing international peace and security.

ALICIA MARTIN GALLEGOS (Nicaragua) expressed Nicaragua's sadness over the current situation. The ongoing military escalation was regrettable. The parties should return to the Road Map. The escalation of violence had to stop. Conflicts could not be resolved through attacks on peace and security. The violations of the peace process by the Israeli State were jeopardizing the peace process. War should be considered as the greatest failure of humanity. Civilization required that everyone abide by ethical rules. Nicaragua supported the work of the Council to protect human rights.

VALERY LOSHCHININ (Russian Federation) said the Russian Federation was seriously concerned about the drastic escalation of the confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian people. Once again, innocent blood had been spilled, and the situation had deteriorated significantly. The actions of Israel could not be justified. They contradicted the principles of international humanitarian law. They were disproportionate. Russia called on Israel to lift the economic siege on the Gaza Strip and to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people. However, it could also not be ignored that the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian militants only exacerbated the situation and did not help a settlement. Both parties should put an end to violence, take urgent and concrete steps to put an end to violations, and begin a dialogue.

IMTINAN ELAHI QURESHI (Pakistan) said that some said that too frequent Special Sessions would devalue the currency of the Human Rights Council. But too frequent human rights violations targeting one particular region were a mockery of the human rights machinery if it could not respond or take action. The recent operations had resulted in many casualties and numbers were rising. The latest episodes showed that Israel had no respect for international law. The people of Gaza had to be protected. The Council's role in this situation was an imperative.

MOTAHER HUSSAIN (Bangladesh) said that what was happening in Gaza was appalling. At least 40 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli bombardments in the past week alone. One such incident killed many women, children and elderly people attending a wedding party. The massacre had shocked the world's conscience. That heinous act of indiscriminate killing by Israel defied all civilized behaviour. In particular, it was deeply frustrating that those incidents had occurred at a time when new political initiatives, both in the European Union and in the United States, were taking place to revive the stalled peace process. Those incidents not only reflected a lack of commitment by Israel to allow any progress, but also undermined the process itself.

This was not the first time that Israel had committed such a crime. The massacre of Beit Hanoun was still fresh in their minds. Bangladesh firmly believed that lasting and viable peace in the region could not be achieved until the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people were fully recognized and Israeli occupation forces withdrew from the occupied territory. Israel had to ensure unrestricted and secure passage of all humanitarian assistance, rapid and unimpeded movement of aide workers, and resumption of full supply of fuel and other essential items of daily life. It was essential that the Council took a clear and unequivocal stand on the flagrant defiance of international law, particularly on the violation of fundamental human rights by Israel.

ABDOUL WAHAB HAIDARA (Senegal) said that the situation in Gaza was serious. The violence of the last few days, of which the civilians were the main victims, as well as the grave humanitarian situation that resulted from it, made it incumbent for the international community to make an appeal to stop the hostilities. All parties were called upon to abstain from any acts that could compromise the peace process that had been started during the Annapolis Conference. Also Senegal, as President of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, reaffirmed its determination to continue its work towards the creation of an independent Palestinian State.

FRANK ISOH (Nigeria) said that the current crisis in Gaza and the West Bank town of Nablus reminded them once again, albeit painfully, of the fragility of peace in the region and offered a compelling reason for stepping up ongoing global efforts at seeking a solution to the overall Middle East conflict. The indiscriminate firing of rockets at civilian targets by Palestinians and the disproportionate use of force by Israel with attendant collateral damage on civilian populations could find no place in civilized conduct. The international community could not escape the fact that frequent flare-ups of this nature were the outcome of the collective frustration of the Palestinian people over the slow pace of global efforts towards the attainment of statehood. Nigeria believed that the two-State solution remained the best solution to stemming the frequent resort to violence. Nigeria reaffirmed its support for the African Union resolution that called on the international community, and in particular, the Member States of the Quartet, to reactivate the peace plan so as to pave the way for a return to the negotiating table.

DAYAN JAYATILLAKE (Sri Lanka) said that Sri Lanka recognized the right of Israel to exist and the right it had for its self-defence. But what was being witnessed today was grossly disproportionate. The attacks by Palestinians were also condemned, but the force used against civilians by Israel was not seen as appropriate. Given their history, the people of Israel knew very well the hardships of ghettoisation. It was a repetition of crimes seen long ago. Also, Hamas legislators had been elected officially, and those that had remained silent when they were taken away were responsible today for the current situation.

CLODOALDO HUGUENEY (Brazil) said that Brazil was among those countries that had signed the list calling for the Special Session on Palestine. It was Brazil's view that unless the parties reinforced their commitment to dialogue and to the cessation of the use of force, it would not be possible, from a human rights perspective, to achieve significant changes in the conditions on the ground. A partial approach to the current situation, without a call for moderation to all parties involved in the hostilities, would jeopardize the legitimacy of the Human Rights Council, as well as the efficacy of any decision taken on the issue. Brazil was concerned not only about the effects of the Israeli attacks and incursions on the human rights and humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, but also with rocket attacks launched against Israeli communities close to the Gaza Strip. All parties involved had to halt actions that affected civilian populations on both sides. Brazil also called on Israel to guarantee free access of humanitarian services and supplies to Gaza.

FAISAL ABDULLAH AL-HENZAB (Qatar) said that it was regrettable that the Council had to meet so soon after the Annapolis Conference. The policy pursued by Israel showed that its Government had no sincere wish for peace. Gaza had become one enormous prison where the human rights situation was of great concern. The launching of rockets by rebel groups did not give the right to Israel to attack the civilians in Gaza. An end should be put to the military actions. The humanitarian situation in Gaza was serious. Qatar was sending food in the region. The Council should tackle the crisis and condemn Israel's policy.

BEULAH NAIDOO (South Africa) said that South Africa condemned the use of violence, including in the occupied Palestinian territory. The recent military attacks and incursions by Israel had resulted in extensive material damage and loss of lives. The destruction of property, burning of farmlands, and restriction of fuel, food and medicine had resulted in a serious disruption of the provision of essential services. The disproportionate use of force and collective punishment that was being meted out against the Palestinian people could never be justified on the basis of self-defence. The economic strangulation and disruption of social life of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory could not be allowed to continue. South Africa highlighted the finding in the report by the Council's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that "the apparent failure of Western States to take steps to bring such a situation to an end places the future of international protection of human rights in jeopardy as developing nations begin to question the commitment of Western States to human rights". South Africa welcomed the recent contacts between Israelis and Palestinians aimed at establishing dialogue. The Annapolis Conference and the commencement of talks on the final status issues had raised expectations of an opportunity to find long term peace and stability in the region. However, every time such military actions continued without the necessary pressure on the Israeli Government to desist from such action, the peace process was decisively set back. It was critical that the international community mobilized greater pressure to bring about stability in that area.

MURIEL BERSET KOHEN (Switzerland) said that Switzerland deplored the escalation of violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It was worried about the consequences of the clashes and called for an end to the violence. The rights of the Palestinian people were at the heart of Switzerland's preoccupation. The breaking up of the socio-economic infrastructure was alarming. These measures of collective punishment were causing a humanitarian crisis and went against international humanitarian law. Switzerland urged Israel to lift the current siege. It also condemned the launching of rockets into Israel. All parties should show restraint in order to give a chance to the peace process. This Special Session was taking place at a crucial moment, both in the Palestinian peace process and in the history of the Council.

ANGELICA NAVARRO LLANOS (Bolivia) said Bolivia, like other speakers, condemned all collective punishment of innocent civilian populations. Those acts, which ran counter to international humanitarian and human rights law were counterproductive to the ultimate aim, which was to find a peaceful settlement that could be supported by all. As Bishop Tutu said before this Council last year, peace could only be achieved if the rights of all were respected. This Special Session would not be able to resolve the long-term underlying issues, and the failure of plans to find a lasting peace. Therefore, Bolivia was concentrating on calling for Israel to lift the recent economic blockade of Gaza, which was causing the deaths of innocent civilians. In that way, they could at least perhaps avert the worst humanitarian crisis.

TERRY CORMIER (Canada) said Canada was deeply concerned by the deteriorating humanitarian situation facing Palestinians and the continuing attacks targeted at Israeli citizens. Israel was urged to comply with its obligations under international law and to take all measures to protect civilians in Gaza and the West Bank. Unfortunately, neither this resolution nor the current session addressed the role of both parties. It was regretful that the current draft resolution did not condemn the rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. The mandate of the Council was clearly to protect the rights of all. As the proposed resolution did not respect this, Canada would vote against the draft resolution.

ARCANJO MARIA DO NASCIMENTO (Angola) said Angola deeply deplored the latest events that had occurred in the Gaza Strip and Nablus, especially due to their negative impact on the civilian population and to the fact that they added to the deterioration of the already precarious economic and social situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Angola was particularly concerned by the restrictions imposed to access to basic food, health care assistance, and other social rights of the civilian population. The latest reports concerning the lifting of some measures by Israel should be encouraged, and constituted a positive step that could ease the situation on the ground. Angola duly recognized the legitimate right of Israel to defend and protect its population and its territory against actions launched by armed militias bent on derailing the peace process in the Middle East. But the exercise of legitimate defence should be adequate and proportional. Angola did not believe that collective punishment was the right answer. It was important that all parties demonstrated restraint, abstaining from acts that undermined the rights of civilians during military operations. It was important that all parties continued to show the political will and a spirit of flexibility.
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