Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (May18/02)
17 May 2018
Third World Network
United Nations: Human Rights Council to meet 18 May over Gaza massacre
Published in SUNS #8682 dated 17 May 2018
Geneva, 16 May (Kanaga Raja) - The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is
meeting in an extraordinary session on Friday, 18 May at 10 am to
consider the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied
Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.
The session has been convened at the request of Palestine and the
United Arab Emirates (on behalf of the Arab Group) and supported by
26 other states, 17 of them members of the HRC.
The meeting takes place in the wake of the Israeli troops opening
fire against demonstrators at the border fence separating Gaza and
Israel, resulting (according to a New York Times report, citing Palestinian
officials) in 60 killed and more than 1,700 hospitalized, in the worst
one-day total casualties since the 20 14 Gaza war.
Israel said that only a small number of those shot had been armed.
Meanwhile, a United Nations human rights expert has condemned the
excessive use of force by Israel towards largely unarmed demonstrators
at the Gaza fence on Monday, which has left 58 Palestinians dead,
and almost 2,800 wounded.
[A news report in the New York Times (about Israelis being defiant
over the Gaza clashes) has cited the staggering casualty reports from
the Gaza protest on Monday as 60 killed, and more than 1,700 hospitalized,
according to Palestinian officials. Other media reports have characterized
it as a massacre, with the NYT, in an op-ed, calling the casualties
at the Gaza fence and the celebrations in Jerusalem (with participation
of President Trump's daughter and son-in-law) over the opening of
the US embassy there as "grotesque".]
In a news release on Tuesday, Mr Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur
on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied
since 1967, voiced fears that this figure could rise sharply in the
coming days unless Israeli authorities uphold their obligations under
international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
The rights expert called on the Israeli Government to immediately
cease its lethal assault against protesters at the Gaza fence, who
he said appear to pose no credible threat to Israeli military forces
on the Israeli side of the fence.
Several United Nations agencies also voiced concerns over the violence
in G aza during the regular weekly UN press briefing here on Tuesday
Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Council will be convening
a special session on "the deteriorating human rights situation
in the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem"
this coming Friday.
The special session has been called following an official request
submitted on Tuesday evening by Palestine and the United Arab Emirates,
on behalf of the Arab Group of States.
The request has thus far been supported by the following States members
of the Council (17): Angola, Burundi, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Iraq,
Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal,
South Africa, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
The request was also supported by the following observer States (9):
Bahrain, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kuwait, Maldives, Oman,
Tajikistan and Turkey.
"This blatant excessive use of force by Israel - an eye for an
eyelash - must end, and there must be true accountability for those
in military and political command who have ordered or allowed this
force to be once again employed at the Gaza fence," Mr Lynk said
"I must reiterate that international human rights law sets strict
prohibitions on the use of force by law enforcement officials. Lethal
force against demonstrators is prohibited unless strictly unavoidable
in the case of an imminent threat to life or threat of serious injury."
Mr Lynk said: "The killing of demonstrators in violation of these
rules, an d within the context of occupation, may amount to willful
killing, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as
a war crime."
The rights expert also voiced deep concern at the apparent disregard
by Israeli forces for the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
"These fundamental rights belong to all peoples, and they must
be permitted to exercise them within reasonable bounds. There appears
to be no persuasive evidence that the use of flammable kites, throwing
of stones or Molotov cocktails, or other actions reportedly taken
by a small number of the demonstrators presented a deadly threat that
justified the force used by the Israeli military," said Mr Lynk.
According to the news release, tens of thousands of Gazans have gathered
along the fence and continue to demonstrate to protest the opening
of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, as well as to continue to call for
the right to return to the ir homes, and to demand an end to the unliveable
humanitarian situation in Gaza brought on by Israel's 11-year blockade.
[The Israeli imposed blockade of Gaza has resulted in the residents
in Gaza not being able to move out, even temporarily, and has also
restricted supplies, including essential medical supplies and keeping
electric power stations functioning, hospitals unable to have electricity
continuously, and impairing availability of pure drinking water to
the residents of Gaza.]
According to the news release, the latest reports say that 112 Palestinians
have been killed and more than 12,000 wounded since the demonstrations
began on 30 March.
The Special Rapporteur reiterated his call to the international community,
through the United Nations, to conduct an independent and impartial
investigation into these killings, as well as those that have occurred
in the context of these demonstrations since 30 March.
"Impunity for these actions is not an option. Justice for the
victims must become a priority for the international community,"
Meanwhile, a statement attributable to the spokesperson for United
Nation Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on 14 May said that the
Secretary-General "is profoundly alarmed by the sharp escalation
of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and the high number
of Palestinians killed and injured in the Gaza protests."
"Israel security forces must exercise maximum restraint in the
use of live fire."
Hamas and the leaders of the demonstrations have a responsibility
to prevent all violent actions and provocations.
"With tensions high and more demonstrations expected in the coming
days, it is imperative that everyone show the utmost restraint to
avoid further loss of life, including ensuring that all civilians
and particularly children are not put in harm's way," said the
It noted that hospitals report that essential medical supplies, drugs
and equipment have already been exhausted. "Humanitarian funding
and improved access is urgently needed to meet these and other existing
or emerging needs."
The ongoing violence underscores the urgent need for a political solution.
According to the statement, the Secretary-General reiterates that
there is no viable alternative to the two-state solution, with Palestine
and Israel living side by side in peace, each with its capital in
Several UN agencies spoke on the violence in Gaza during the regular
weekly press briefing here on Tuesday.
"We condemn the appalling, deadly violence in Gaza yesterday
[on Monday] during which 58 Palestinians were killed and almost 1,360
demonstrators were injured with live ammunition fired by Israeli security
forces," said Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights.
Of those injured, 155 are in critical condition, he said, pointing
out that six children and a health worker were among those who lost
their lives, and 10 journalists suffered injuries from gunshot wounds.
The already crumbling health care system in Gaza has been placed under
incredible strain and those suffering life-threatening injuries face
a nightmarish scenario in the absence of adequate hospital beds and
"We are still witnessing cases in which injured demonstrators
are effective ly prevented by Israel from exiting Gaza for treatment,"
"The rules on the use of force under international law have been
repeated m any times but appear to have been ignored again and again.
It seems anyone is liable to be shot dead or injured: women, children,
press personnel, first responders, bystanders, and at almost any point
up to 700 m from the fence."
He also said a number of the demonstrators did approach the fence,
threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces personnel,
and flew kites laden with petrol soaked material.
"Some tried to damage the fence that separates Gaza from Israel.
Others burnt tires. Israeli forces responded with tear gas, plastic
bullets and various types of live ammunition, some causing horrific
wounds and lifelong disabilities."
"We stress, again, that lethal force may only be used as a measure
of last - not first - resort, and only when there is an immediate
threat to life or serious injury."
Colville said an attempt to approach, or crossing or damaging the
Green-line fence do not amount to a threat to life or serious injury
and are not sufficient grounds for the use of live ammunition. "This
is also the case with regards to stones and Molotov cocktails being
thrown from a distance at well-protected security forces located behind
"Again, we call for independent, transparent investigations into
all cases of death and injury since 30 March. Since that date, 112
Palestinians, including 14 children, have lost their lives at the
fence and thousands have been injured."
Colville said: "We are extremely worried about what may happen
later today - which is obviously an emotional day on all sides - as
well as in the weeks ahead. And we urge maximum restraint. Enough
Asked at the press briefing if the actions of the Israeli security
forces constitute a crime against humanity or is genocide, Colville
said that genocide is a word that should not be used lightly.
It is something that is extremely rarely decided upon and "it
is not a word we use just at the drop of a hat like that."
In terms of whether crimes have been committed, Colville said that
"I think we are strongly hinting that this is excessive use of
force. An excessive use of force means something, that we would hope
there would be proper investigations and anyone found to have been
breaching international human rights law but also international humanitarian
law, which applies because this is still seen as a conflict, would
be charged if they have committed crimes."
He said in the context of an occupation such as Gaza, killings resulting
from the unlawful use of force may also constitute willful killings
which are a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Asked about the fact that given the recent spate of killings by the
Israeli security forces and there being a consistent pattern over
the last several days, at what point would he call this a genocide,
Colville said: "I do urge you not to re-use that word genocide."
He said there are plenty of (other) serious international crimes under
international law, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
"Genocide is extremely, extremely rare. There is only a handful
of occasion s where it has been judged to have happened since World
War II. So I think you need to take that word out of this equation
at this point."
"Yes, it's two sides and the two sides are very identifiable
in terms of religion or ethnicity but that doesn't necessarily make
it genocide. So I would simply drop the use of that word in this context,"
Asked if Israel has the right to defend its borders, Colville said
yes, but it has to defend them according to international law and
"So I think we have been very clear. The use of lethal force
must only be a last resort. And you just have to look at the different
casualty figures on both sides to see that it has not been used as
a last resort. Huge casualties on the Palestinian side and I believe
one injury maybe to an Israeli soldier through stone throwing."
So, they (Israel) are under obligation, under international law, to
handle these demonstrations in a way that preserves life, unless their
own lives are very clearly directly threatened, which has not been
Asked as to whether it was indiscriminate, Colville, drawing attention
to the casualties just yesterday, pointed to six children at least,
women, and a double amputee.
"How much threat can a double amputee be making from the other
side of a well-fortified fence, and a medic as well," he asked.
He said that it looks awfully like it (being indiscriminate), but
that's why you need proper investigations to find out exactly what's
going on the side of the Israeli security forces.
Asked about the issue of the US embassy being moved to Jerusalem,
Colville said that the issue of the embassy clearly has not helped
to reduce tensions by any means.
He cited the International Court of Justice as saying that under customary
international law, "these were therefore occupied territories
in which Israel had the status of occupying power. Subsequent events
in these territories have done nothing to alter the situation. All
these territories including East Jerusalem remain occupied territories
and Israel has continued to have the status of occupying power."
Colville said East Jerusalem is occupied territory and that obviously
is a very important factor and has been a major factor in all of these
failed peace talks for decades.
The spokesman also pointed out that the mere fact of approaching the
fence is not a lethal life-threatening act, so that does not warrant
He said that the guidelines on policing and on handling demonstrations
exist. They are longstanding and clear, but they are not being applied.
Colville said that the situation of human rights in the Middle East
is "absolutely horrendous, ranging from Syria to Yemen and now
to Gaza - Gaza repeatedly every few years we have one of these very
major events where a lot of people lose their lives."
"It is just deplorable. I mean these are human beings. And these
are clearly for the most part civilians and it's simply not acceptable
just to say this is Hama s and therefore its okay. Because clearly,
it's not just Hamas, it is a very wide spread feeling among virtually
all Palestinians about the blockade in Gaza and how it needs to be
lifted and so on, and the occupation and the settlements, and a ll
the many huge and festering issues that have been there for decades."
Asked about the types of ammunition that are being used and whether
it is i n itself a breach of the Convention, Colville said he did
not have specific findings on the types of ammunition being used at
He noted that while people focus on the deaths which are bad enough,
time and time again in Gaza there have been thousands of people injured.
Jens Laerke, Deputy Spokesperson for the United Nations Office for
the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said at the press
briefing that fifty-eight Palestinians were reported killed by Israeli
forces during the protests on 14 May along Israel's perimeter fence
with Gaza, according to numbers from the Ministry of Health in Gaza
verified by the UN.
The fatalities include six children and one health worker. More than
2,700 people were also reported injured, including over 1,300 by live
There were zero reports of fatalities on the Israeli side, but one
Israeli soldier was lightly wounded and was taken to hospital for
OCHA cited the Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, as
expressing his deep concern on 14 May by the tragedy unfolding in
Gaza after visiting the Shifa Hospital in Gaza.
Mr. McGoldrick said that the medical teams at Shifa are overwhelmed,
dealing with hundreds of cases of injured, including women and children,
and are running out of essential medical supplies.
He stressed that public hospitals in Gaza have less than a week of
fuel reserves to continue their operations.
According to OCHA, local sources estimated that around 35,000 people
participated in the demonstrations on 14 May, many more than in previous
Hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators marched from the gathering point
towards the perimeter fence where they burned tires and threw rocks
at Israeli forces, and flew kites with flaming materials attached
to them into Israeli territory.
Israeli forces responded by firing rubber bullets and tear gas canisters,
and by firing live ammunition, including by snipers.
According to OCHA, humanitarian responders have identified three areas
of intervention to the growing crisis: providing immediate life-saving
healthcare; monitoring, verifying and documenting possible protection
violations; and scaling up the provision of mental health and psychological
support for people injured or otherwise affected.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), meanwhile, said the capacity
of the health sector in Gaza is already threatened in the context
of more than ten years of blockade, with long-term shortages of essential
medicines and medical equipment and disposables.
This month, two in every five essential drugs are completely depleted
and half have less than a month's supply remaining.
Life-saving drugs used in emergency situations, such antibiotics and
adrenaline are urgently needed, said WHO.
Essential life-saving medicines used in longer term health conditions
such as cancer are also critically low, with 80% of medications for
cancer treatment depleted or with less than a month's supply remaining,