After 43 year – the United Nations three-member committee to investigate Israeli human rights violations in occupied territories (established in 1968) – was able to enter Gaza Strip via the border crossing at Rafah (Egypt). So far, the panel have been meeting in Cairo, Amman and Damascus where Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza were given a hearing twice a year.
The 3-member did not include that horrible anti-Israel Jewish Professor Richard Falk. The panel which held interviews in Gaza and Amman (Jordan) included Ambassador Palitha T.B. Kohona, permanent representative of Sri Lanka to the U.N. (chair); Ambassador Hussein Haniff, permanent representative of Malaysia; and Ambassador Fod Seck, permanent representative of Senegal to the U.N. based in Geneva.
The panel in its report released last Friday – have criticized the Zionist-regime for its “continuing disregard of its obligations under international law”.
“Unfortunately, what we found in Gaza that the oppressive restrictions imposed on Gaza by Israel have the effect of collectively punishing the population,” it said.
With around 35 percent of Gaza’s land area excluded from agriculture due to Israel’s vague buffer zone along the border, and its fishing areas limited to only three nautical miles from the coast (85 percent of fisheries), the people of Gaza could hardly feed themselves, much less revive a decimated economy through exports, the panel said.
“We were alarmed by allegations that Israel enforces these policies employing live fire, including in some instances against children and the elderly,” said the panel.
“The fact that the Government of Israel continues to hold around 6,000 Palestinians in prisons inside Israel, some for over twenty years, merits closer attention from the international community,” said the Committee. The members continued, “These prisoners and their families are suffering deeply. The ill-treatment of women at border crossings and in Israeli prisons raises serious concerns.”
Witnesses updated the Committee regarding ongoing, systematic and widespread Israeli policies and practices in the West Bank, in particular East Jerusalem, such as the confiscation of Palestinian land, the arbitrary demolition of Palestinian homes and properties, restrictions on freedom of movement for Palestinians, and the expansion of Israeli settlements. Several witnesses provided testimony regarding increasingly frequent acts of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their lands and crops. The Committee noted that “The violence by Israel settlers against Palestinians, especially against children, and their lands, in particular the destruction of crops, is appalling. It is plainly criminal behavior and the Israeli authorities must take measures to prevent and punish such behavior.”
Witnesses from the Golan Heights emphasized that Israel has continued its illegal policies and practices. Poor conditions of detention and a lack of family visits for prisoners, discriminatory access to water, especially for agricultural purposes, and the separation of families were highlighted as persistent concerns. Several witnesses raised concerns regarding the Israeli Defense Forces’ excessive use of force in response to protests on Nakba Day and on 5 June 2011, which resulted in deaths and injuries. They also noted with regret that Israel is currently confiscating land to build an eight meter separation wall between the Golan Heights and the rest of Syria.
The Committee expresses it regret that the Government of Israel would not respond to its request to visit the occupied territories. In its report to the sixty-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly in November 2011, the Special Committee will provide an in-depth review of its main observations following the mission, and will make detailed recommendations to improve respect for human rights in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.