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UN Special Rapporteur alarmed by devastating impact of Gaza conflict on Palestinian civilians

GENEVA (29 September 2014) – The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Makarim Wibisono, today expressed alarm at the terrible cost paid by Palestinian civilians, especially children in Gaza, as a result of Israel’s military operation that lasted 50 days from 7 July to 26 August this year.

The latest round of violence has left 1,479 civilians, including 506 children dead. A staggering 11,231 Palestinian civilians, including 3,436 children were injured, many, now struggling with life-long disabilities. Tens of thousands of children live with the trauma of having witnessed the horrific killings of family members, friends, and neighbours before their own eyes.

“This raises serious questions about possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law,” Mr. Wibisono said at the end of his first mission to the region.

“Israel’s claim of self-defense against an occupied population living under a blockade considered to be illegal under international law is untenable,” he said. “In a population where over half of the 1.8 million people are under 18, this is truly a tragedy, which will be felt for generations to come.”

The Special Rapporteur noted that there wasn’t a single child in Gaza who has not been adversely affected by the conflict. Children now suffer from bedwetting, difficulties in sleeping, nightmares, a loss of appetite, and schools are seeing more aggressive behaviour in pupils.

It is estimated that 7,000 unexploded ordinances are still littered across the Gaza Strip, continuing to pose a serious threat to Gazans, including children.

In the 50 days of relentless bombing and shelling, 228 schools in Gaza were damaged, including 26 destroyed or damaged beyond repair. 87 schools are now operating double shifts. The Special Rapporteur was informed that temporary psychosocial support has been made available for those children lucky enough to be able to return to school, but those children who have lost parents will require long-term professional support and counseling.

An estimated 60,000 civilians remain in 19 shelters across the Gaza Strip. With winter coming soon, there is need for rapid reconstruction, and an urgent need for temporary housing to restore hope and dignity to the Palestinian people in Gaza.

Meanwhile, health professionals in Gaza also reported a critical shortage of medicines and equipment, and doctors expressed frustration at the shortage of electricity, as mobile generators were overburdened beyond their capacity.

“Israel must immediately lift the seven year land, sea and air blockade of Gaza, and urgently allow needed materials for reconstruction and recovery,” Mr. Wibisono urged.

The Special Rapporteur also raised serious concerns on the deteriorating situation of human rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, regarding the excessive use of force by Israeli Security Forces in the context of demonstrations and clashes in recent months.

Wibisono urged Israel to comply with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, noting that during the period from 12 June to 31 August 2014, a total of 27 Palestinians were killed, of whom five were children, with the youngest victim only 11 years-old.

“The use of live ammunition against Palestinians even if they were throwing stones, is unjustifiable,” the UN expert said.

On the imminent risk of 6 Plans being approved which would lead to the forcible transfer and forced eviction of thousands of Bedouins and herders from the East Jerusalem periphery and the Jordan Valley, and the demolition of Bedouin homes and schools, Mr. Wibisono stated that such practices would violate international humanitarian and human rights law and must cease immediately. No one should be moved against their will.

“The affected communities have opposed these plans, and wish to remain in their current location,” he said. Mr. Wibisono also called for adequate planning and access to public infrastructures for these Bedouin communities.

If implemented, these plans will further disconnect East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, disrupt the territorial contiguity of occupied Palestine, and pave the way for further expansion of Israeli settlements, and of the Wall.

Mr. Wibisono noted that voices from across the Occupied Palestinian Territory called in unison for three demands: the need for accountability, an end to the blockade, and an end to the occupation.

“Those responsible for violations of international law must be brought to justice in order to avoid yet another round of deadly violence in the near future,” he said.

During his visit to the region, Mr. Wibisono met with Palestinian officials, civil society representatives, human rights defenders and victims among others in Amman, Cairo, and in Gaza via video and teleconference, as Israel did not grant access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

In Amman, the UN expert also visited patients from Gaza receiving treatment at King Hussein hospital. Among them was Manar, a 14 year-old girl from Beit Hanoun, who lost both her legs, and suffered shrapnel wounds and internal injuries when an Israeli strike hit an UNRWA school. Manar also lost her mother and three brothers in the same attack.

The Special Rapporteur will report fully on his findings and recommendations to the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015.

In 2014, the UN Human Rights Council designated Makarim Wibisono (Indonesia) as the sixth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the then UN Commission on Human Rights. As Special Rapporteur, Mr. Wibisono is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/PS/Pages/SRPalestine.aspx

UN Human Rights, country pages:
Occupied Palestinian Territories: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx
Israel: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx

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For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
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