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Human Rights Council holds a special session on the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory

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18 May 2018

MORNING

GENEVA (18 May 2018) The Human Rights Council this morning opened a special session on “the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem,” in which it heard addresses by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Micheal Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.

Opening the session, Vojislav Šuc, President of the Human Rights Council, reminded that the request for the convening of the special session had been supported by Angola, Belgium, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.  The following observer States also supported the holding of the session: Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Costa Rica, France, Indonesia, Ireland, Iran, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Kuwait, Malta, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Oman, Portugal, Sudan, Sweden, Syria, State of Palestine, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uruguay, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein deplored the appalling recent events that had occurred in the occupied Palestinian territories, killing dozens and injuring thousands of people.  Completely unarmed Palestinian demonstrators were shot in the back, head, the arms, the front and other parts of their body, with live ammunition.  Even if some demonstrators had attempted to use Molotov cocktails and wire cutters to cut fences between Gaza and Israel, these did not constitute a threat which could justify the use of lethal force.  All of the 1.9 million people who lived in Gaza were living behind fences and suffering more and more restrictions, and greater poverty.  They had little hope for employment and their infrastructure was crumbling.  Israel, as an occupying power under international law, was obliged to protect the population of Gaza and ensure their welfare.  Palestinians had exactly the same human rights as Israelis did.  High Commissioner Zeid endorsed calls by many States and observers for an investigation that was international, independent and impartial – in the hope that the truth regarding these matters would lead to justice.  Those responsible for violations in the end must be held accountable.  The occupation must end, so the people of Palestine could be liberated, and the people of Israel liberated from it.  He urged Israel to act in accordance with its international obligations.  

Addressing the Council in a video message, Micheal Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, noted that the events in Gaza in the past week and the past two months, and the past 11 years haunted the conscience of the international community.  A tiny crowded enclave of land, holding two million people under occupation, cut off from the outside world by an imposing and comprehensive air, sea and land blockade, living in an utterly dire situation that the United Nations had called unsustainable and unliveable and a form of collective punishment, seeking the elemental human demands of freedom, justice and the right to enjoy the fruits of life, like anyone else.  Mr. Lynk noted that the overwhelming majority of Gaza inhabitants had been committed to non-violence over the past seven weeks, armed only with the oldest and most human of aspirations: to live free in one’s own land.  Over the past seven weeks, over 100 Palestinian demonstrators had died at the hands of the Israeli military.  It was Israel that remained the occupying power, because it maintained “effective control” over Gaza and its inhabitants.  And it was the Israel Defence Forces which, over the past seven weeks, had fired lethal ammunition again and again into the crowds of demonstrators, notwithstanding the calls of the international community and the demands of human rights defenders.  But, the responsibility for the grim conditions in Gaza also rested with Hamas, with the Palestinian Authority, and with Egypt.  

Israel speaking as a concerned country, noted that the proposed resolution was yet again politically motivated, stressing that the people of Gaza were not seen as enemies of Israel.  There was no occupation in Gaza; it was a myth.  Israel had unilaterally withdrawn from Gaza in 2005.  Hamas was cynically exploiting its own population in a violent campaign against Israel.  It was regrettable that so many were fooled by the narrative of peaceful protests with knives and Molotov cocktails.

Also speaking as a concerned country, the State of Palestine stressed that the killing and criminal acts of the Israeli occupation forces against civilians who protested their refusal of occupation policies was unacceptable.  The demonstrators had asked for freedom and wanted to be free from occupation.  This Council must help and must decide on an international independent fact–finding mission in order to determine the facts.  If Palestinians had carried out any violations, they were ready to shoulder the responsibilities.  However, the other party must also be held accountable.
 
In the ensuing discussion, delegations called on all parties to show restraint and condemned the disproportionate and unrestrained use of force against civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories in the past weeks, most notably in the Gaza Strip.  They agreed that an independent inquiry should be conducted in the recent events in the Gaza Strip to prevent future impunity and guarantee redress.  An independent and transparent investigation of human rights violations committed by all parties would shed light on what had happened and why.  Some delegations noted that everyone had known what the consequences of the relocation of the United States embassy to Jerusalem would be.  Sadly, those fears had been realized.  Other delegations, while concerned about the recent outbreak of violence along the Gaza fence, observed that the special session was blatantly taking sides and that it ignored the real culprit for it, the terrorist organization Hamas.  They expressed a view that Israel had legitimate security concerns, and that it had the right to protect its population.

Speaking were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Venezuela on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, Togo on behalf of the African Group, United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Arab Group, Bulgaria on behalf of the European Union, Brazil, Qatar, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, Belgium, Ukraine, Democratic Republic of Congo, United States, Afghanistan, Cuba, China, Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Australia, Senegal, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Nepal, Tunisia, Angola, Malaysia, Iceland, France, Holy See, Bolivia, Liechtenstein, Jordan, Thailand, Uruguay, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, India, Tajikistan, Syria, Viet Nam, Maldives, Sweden, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Bangladesh, Malta, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Mali, Sudan, Lebanon, Turkey, Namibia, Mauritania, Oman, Iran, Sri Lanka, Botswana, New Zealand, Bahrain, Morocco, Guyana, Kuwait, Canada, Russian Federation and Ireland.

The special session will resume today at 2 p.m. when the Council will start taking action on the proposed draft resolution.  

Statement by the President of the Council

VOJISLAV ŠUC, President of the Human Rights Council, declared open the special session on the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and reminded that the request for its convening had been received on 15 May.  The request was supported by the following Member States of the Council: Angola, Belgium, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.  

The following observer States also supported the holding of the session: Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Costa Rica, France, Indonesia, Ireland, Iran, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Kuwait, Malta, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Oman, Portugal, Sudan, Sweden, Syria, State of Palestine, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uruguay, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

The President of the Council appealed to everyone to use appropriate language and to maintain the dignity and respect inherent in discussions.  

Statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights

ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said appalling recent events in Gaza had called this Council into special session.  Since the protests began on 30 March, 87 Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli security forces in the context of the demonstrations, including 12 children; 29 others, including three children, were killed in other circumstances.  And over 12,000 people had been injured, more than 3,500 of them by live ammunition.  The violence had reached a peak on Monday 14 May, when 43 demonstrators were killed by Israeli forces – and the number sadly continued to climb, as some of the 1,360 demonstrators injured with live ammunition that day succumbed to their wounds.  These people, many of whom were completely unarmed, were shot in the back, in the chest, in the head and limbs with live ammunition, as well as rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas canisters.  Israeli forces also killed a further 17 Palestinians outside the context of the five demonstration hot spots.  Together, this figure of 60 was the highest one-day death toll in Gaza since the 2014 hostilities.

This was not "a PR victory for Hamas", in the reported words of a senior Israeli military spokesman; it was a tragedy for thousands of families.  The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had also described the demonstrators as being "paid by Hamas", and had said the Israeli security forces "try to minimize casualties".  But there was little evidence of any attempt to minimize casualties on Monday.  Although some of the demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, used sling-shots to throw stones, flew burning kites into Israel, and attempted to use wire-cutters against the two fences between Gaza and Israel, these actions alone did not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force.  The stark contrast in casualties on both sides was also suggestive of a wholly disproportionate response: on Monday, on the Israeli side, one soldier was reportedly wounded, slightly, by a stone.  Killings resulting from the unlawful use of force by an occupying power might also constitute wilful killings – a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Palestinians had exactly the same human rights as Israelis did.  They had the same rights to live safely in their homes, in freedom, with adequate and essential services and opportunities.  And of this essential core of entitlements due to every human being, they were systematically deprived.  All of the 1.9 million people who lived in Gaza had been penned in behind fences and had suffered progressively more restrictions and greater poverty.  After 11 years of blockade by Israel they had little hope of employment, and their infrastructure was crumbling, with an electricity crisis, inadequate health services and a decaying sewage system that constituted a threat to health.  They were forced to seek exit permits from Israel for any reason, including for specialised health care, and many of those permits were denied or delayed – including permits for the great majority of the demonstrators shot by Israeli security forces this week.
Israel, as an occupying power under international law, was obligated to protect the population of Gaza and ensure their welfare.  But they were, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death; deprived of dignity; dehumanised by the Israeli authorities to such a point it appeared officials did not even consider that these men and women had a right, as well as every reason, to protest.  Nobody had been made safer by the horrific events of the past week.  The human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory continued to deteriorate.  Settlement building had again accelerated this year, together with rising settler violence.  Demolitions of private property continued, including punitive demolitions, which constituted a deplorable form of collective punishment.  Israel also continued to detain large numbers of Palestinians, including children, although under international law the detention of a child must be a measure of last resort.  The High Commissioner said he also deplored the widespread and unprincipled use of detention without trial – described as "administrative detention" – and violations of fundamental fair trial guarantees.  

High Commissioner Zeid endorsed calls by many States and observers for an investigation that was international, independent and impartial – in the hope that the truth regarding these matters would lead to justice.  Those responsible for violations in the end must be held accountable.  The occupation must end, so the people of Palestine could be liberated, and the people of Israel liberated from it.  He urged Israel to act in accordance with its international obligations.  

Statement by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territory Occupied Since 1967

MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, in a video message, said that the events in Gaza in the past week and the past two months, and the past 11 years haunted the conscience of the international community.  A tiny crowded enclave of land, holding two million people under occupation, cut off from the outside world by an imposing and comprehensive air, sea and land blockade, living in an utterly dire situation that the United Nations had called unsustainable and unliveable and a form of collective punishment, seeking the elemental human demands of freedom, justice and the right to enjoy the fruits of life, like anyone else.  Mr. Lynk noted that the overwhelming majority of Gaza inhabitants had been committed to non-violence over the past seven weeks, armed only with the oldest and most human of aspirations: to live free in one’s own land.  Over the past seven weeks, over 100 Palestinian demonstrators had died at the hand of the Israeli military.  Among the dead were children, journalists, health professionals, and many young unemployed men.  Many of the wounded had serious, life-long physical disabilities.  Who bore responsibility for all that?  It had to start with Israel and it political and military command.  It was Israel that had imposed the 11-year old travel and economic blockade that had strangled the Gazan economy and society.  It was Israel that remained the occupying power, because it maintained “effective control” over Gaza and its inhabitants.  And it was the Israel Defence Forces which, over the past seven weeks, had fired lethal ammunition again and again into the crowds of demonstrators, notwithstanding the calls of the international community and the demands of human rights defenders.  Responsibility for the grim conditions in Gaza also rested with Hamas, with the Palestinian Authority, and with Egypt.  They also had to fulfil their obligations to the people of Gaza.  And responsibility also rested with the international community, which had the ultimate obligation to ensure that Israel respected all of its many unmet obligations under international law.  

Israel, as the occupying power, was obliged to uphold and respect the human rights of Palestinians living in the occupied territory.  Palestinians were entitled to their human rights, which included the right to peaceful assembly.  Mr. Lynk reiterated his concern about Israel’s excessive use of force, and he pointed out that “wilful killing” and the “wilful causing of great suffering or serious injury to body and health” of civilians was both a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime under the Rome Statute.  An attempt to approach the fence, damage the fence, or even cross the fence, by an unarmed individual faced with heavily armed soldiers, did not constitute a threat to life or serious injury that would justify the use of lethal force.  Similarly, stones, or even Molotov cocktails, thrown at significant distances towards well protected and heavily armed security forces behind defensive positions, would not rise to the level of threat necessary to justify use of lethal force.  That was a profoundly asymmetrical situation.  Thousands of unarmed demonstrators, shorn of hope, but marching in dignity, living in one of the poorest societies in the region, against the most militarily powerful and economically advanced society in the region.  Israel had been exacting an eye for an eyelash because it could, Mr. Lynk stressed.  Israelis and Palestinians were bound to each other.  They lived under the same sky, in the same land.  Their futures were intertwined.  It was in the best interests of both to finally be able to live in freedom and dignity.  Pursuing accountability, and defending human rights, was the only path to that future.  

Statements by the Concerned Countries

Israel, speaking as a concerned country, noted that the proposed resolution was yet again politically motivated, stressing that the people of Gaza were not seen as enemies of Israel.  There was no occupation in Gaza; it was a myth.  Israel had unilaterally withdrawn from Gaza in 2005.  Hamas was cynically exploiting its own population in a violent campaign against Israel.  It was regrettable that so many were fooled by the narrative of peaceful protests with knives and Molotov cocktails.  Israel reminded that the same Palestinian Authority refused to transfer salaries and resources to Gaza.   Unfortunately, the special session had already succeeded in empowering and rewarding Hamas.  Israel long ago saw that the human rights of the Israelis were not on the agenda of the Council.  The violent confrontation on the Gaza fence was orchestrated by Hamas, which had ruled Gaza since 2007.  Israel’s obligation to defend its own people was a principle enshrined in international law.  It was deplorable that the Council turned a blind eye to the reality on the ground.  The loss of life could have been avoided had Hamas not sent terrorists to the fence.  

State of Palestine, speaking as a concerned State, thanked the State organizers and sponsors of this meeting and those that had submitted the draft resolution today.  It also thanked the civil society organizations that had worked with Palestine today, as well as the High Commissioner for the accurate information in his statement on the events that had occurred since 20 March.  Finally, it thanked the Mission of Pakistan as the coordinator of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.  The declaration of the American President on the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem was in breach of the Geneva Conventions and human rights.  The killing and criminal acts of the Israeli occupation forces against civilians who protested their refusal of occupation policies on 20 of March was unacceptable.  On 14 March, the day of the transfer of the Embassy, the Palestinians had expressed their anger and protested against that.  The demonstrators had asked for freedom and wanted to be free from occupation.  They had been living under siege for over 10 years and under occupation for over 60 years.  The attempts in New York to call for an independent investigation had been aborted by the sponsors of hatred in spite of the very clear request by the Secretary General and many States.  Palestine was thus obliged to come to this forum - the Human Rights Council.  

Referring to the attempt to falsify the information, the State of Palestine underlined that the demonstrators on the streets were civilian protestors.  They were Palestinians first, and had been carrying the flag of the State of Palestine.  None of them used any lethal weapon or fire.  Palestine noted the justifications that the Human Rights Council had just heard that there was a threat against Israel, and that it had the right to self-defence.  The Ambassador of Israel had used these excuses to prevent a special session at various other fora.  The matter was now in the hands of the Human Rights Council.  This Council must help and must decide on an international independent fact–finding mission in order to determine the facts.  If Palestinians had carried out any violations, they were ready to shoulder their responsibility.  However, the other party must also be held accountable.

Discussion

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed its strong condemnation of the arbitrary killing of more than 100 Palestinians and the disproportionate use of force by Israel.  It condemned the use of tear gas shells and live ammunition against innocent civilians, who were protesting decades of oppression and occupation along with the illegal inauguration of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.  This inauguration was a dangerous move that not only contravened international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, but went against all the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, General Assembly and Human Rights Council, which affirmed the status of Al-Quds as an occupied territory under Israel, the occupying power, since 1967.

Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed its grave concern about the serious deterioration of the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that had resulted from the ongoing unlawful policies and practices of Israel, the occupying power.  The Non-Aligned Movement condemned, in the strongest terms, the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.  It expressed grave concerns about the illegal, unilateral and arbitrary decision made by the Government of the United States of America to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and accordingly move its embassy to the city.  

Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people and called for a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The African Group called on all parties to show restraint and it firmly condemned the excessive use of force by the Israeli armed forces.  The international community, and particularly the Human Rights Council should fully take up their role towards the Palestinian people and ensure their protection.  An independent inquiry should be conducted in the events to prevent future impunity and guarantee redress.  Finally, the African Group supported the historical struggle of the Palestinian people for their self-determination.  

United Arab Emirates, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, deeply condemned Israel’s repeated repression of the Palestinian protesters in Gaza and the West Bank.  That disaster that had continued for 11 years in the Gaza Strip was tantamount to unlawful collective punishment of the Palestinian people.  The Arab Group called on the international community to take immediate measures to end that illegal action.  The occupying force was directly responsible for the consequences of the recent massacre.  The international community should set up an independent and transparent inquiry into the recent events in order to hold those responsible to account.

Bulgaria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed deep alarm about the sharp escalation of violence and loss of human lives in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in the Gaza Strip.  It expected Israel to respect the fundamental right to peaceful protest and the principle of proportionality in the use of force when defending its legitimate security interest.  Israel had to refrain from the excessive use of force against unarmed civilians.  An independent and transparent investigation of human rights violations committed by all parties would shed light on what had happened and why.  The European Union called on all parties to take swift steps to produce a fundamental change to the political, security and economic situation in the Gaza Strip.

Brazil was appalled by the disproportionate and unrestrained use of force against civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories in the past weeks, most notably in Gaza, when more than 60 Palestinians had been killed and thousands had been wounded.  Brazil urged the parties to moderation and urged Israel to fully respect its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.  It recognized the right of States to protect themselves, but the use of force had to respect international law and be proportionate.  Brazil echoed the appeals of the United Nations Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights for full, transparent and independent investigations into the recent events.

Qatar expressed its condemnation of the use of disproportionate force and live ammunition against the Palestinian people.  It was unjustifiable to kill citizens premeditatedly, including women, children and the elderly.  Even persons with disabilities had not been spared.  Palestinians had the right to self-determination, and all attempts to change the demographic and geographic nature of Palestine were condemnable.  Qatar called on the international community to show responsibility to protect the Palestinians from the Israeli killing machine and to put pressure on the Israelis to stop this unimpeded murder.

Iraq said it had supported the convening of this special session to call on the international community to put an end to the unimpeded violations of the Israeli occupying forces of international humanitarian law and human rights.  Palestinians in Gaza had been living for 11 years under violence of the Israeli army, and this was unjustifiable.  Iraq was shocked by the recent events.  Tens of innocent Palestinians had been killed and more than a thousand had been wounded.  Iraq expressed deep sorrow over the Security Council’s failure to stop this scourge.  It called on the international community to stand by the Palestinian people and to put an end to the violations.

United Arab Emirates condemned this open-air massacre by the Israeli occupying forces against peaceful demonstrators marching in dignity to reject the status quo and the United States decision to open its embassy in Jerusalem.  It condemned the Israeli use of violence and the use of force against unarmed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.  It was essential to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolution to end the spiral of violence.  The United Arab Emirates sought to start an Arab diplomatic process for the protection of the Palestinians.  It was important to highlight the consequences of the American actions.  

Egypt voiced concern about the recent events in the occupied Palestinian territory and the suffering of unarmed Palestinians targeted deliberately by the armed forces of Israel.  It strongly condemned the excessive use of force during the legitimate protests of Palestinians.  The suffering of the Palestinian people deserved a firm stance from the international community, and the finding of perpetrators, through an international impartial commission of inquiry to investigate the circumstances of the recent events.  Egypt was ready to make every effort to bring back peace and to bring about the two-State solution with pre-1967 border.

Pakistan strongly condemned the merciless killing and injuries inflicted on innocent and unarmed Palestinian civilian protesters by the occupying authorities.  The indiscriminate and brutal use of force on protesters was truly appalling.  The short-sighted decision of the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was another nail in the coffin of what was left of the Middle East peace process.  It would not bring peace and justice, but would only further aggravate one of the most terrible lasting crises since the end of the Second World War.

Peru expressed bewilderment about the recent events in the occupied Palestinian territory and rejected in the strongest terms the use of force against civilians.  It was a violation of international humanitarian law.  Those grave events added to the instability and tension in the Middle East, and they had to be the object of an extensive and transparent international investigation.  Peru called on leaders of all parties to act with restraint, to avoid incitement to violence, and to return to calm dialogue.  

South Africa said that it would have been inexplicable for the Human Rights Council, the moral conscience of the world, not to have convened.  Not to have done so would have said that the Council was deaf to the cries of the women and children of Palestine.  All had known what the consequences of the relocation of the United States embassy to Jerusalem would be.  Sadly, those fears had been realized.  It was correct to criticize Israel for its actions.  It was appropriate for the Human Rights Council to stand up to bullies.  

Belgium said Israel had a legitimate right to self-defence, yet Belgium expected Israel to respect the fundamental right to peaceful protest and stressed that using lethal force in the absence of an immediate threat to life was wholly excessive, neither necessary, nor proportionate, and thus a breach of international law.  Lethal force may only be used as a measure of last resort.  Inciting the people of Gaza to illegally cross the border into Israel caused damage that could not be condoned either.  Hamas and those leading the protests in Gaza had a responsibility to avoid provocations and ensure that they remained strictly non-violent.

Ukraine was seriously concerned at the news of recent events in Gaza and the West Bank.  It believed that immediate measures should be taken to de-escalate the situation.  The security of people living on both sides should be the top priority for all.  Ukraine was convinced that the Council should do more to contribute in a balanced and constructive way to progress on this track.  The Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement lay within the framework of the unconditional fulfilment by the parties of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and on the basis of the Madrid principles and the Arab Peace initiative.

Democratic Republic of Congo said the recent events were unacceptable.  It condemned the loss of so many lives in Gaza.  The issue should be resolved by both parties based on the United Nations Security Council resolutions.  The violence could lead to unimaginable consequences for all.  The dual resolution could lead to a lasting solution.  Meanwhile the respect of international humanitarian law and human rights, in particular the right to peaceful assembly, must be respected.  There must be an independent and transparent inquiry in order to establish the responsibilities.

United States remained concerned about the recent outbreak of violence along the Gaza fence, but the special session was blatantly taking sides and it ignored the real culprit for it, the terrorist organization Hamas.  Hamas messages over loudspeakers urged demonstrators to burst through the fence, falsely claiming Israeli soldiers had been fleeing.  Hamas also allegedly encouraged demonstrators to attack the Kerem Shalom crossing, the biggest entry point in Gaza for fuel, food and medical supplies.  The United States affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself.  It was hypocritical for the Council to spend time and money on a commission of inquiry if there were no commissions looking into human rights violations in other countries.  

Afghanistan deeply condemned Israel’s continued repression in the occupied Palestinian territory and it joined delegations in expressing its solidarity with the State of Palestine and the Palestinians.  It supported the call for an international, independent and impartial investigation into the killings and injuries caused in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territory.  It called for immediate steps to be taken to prevent all acts of violence against civilians and to end impunity.

Cuba condemned in the strongest terms the criminal aggressions by Israel against unarmed Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, which had caused the death of at least 61 persons and more than 2,800 wounded.  That latest aggression against the Palestinian people represented a grave violation of the United Nations Charter and further enflamed tensions in the region.  Cuba reiterated its broad support for a just and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a two-State solution which would allow the Palestinians to achieve their self-determination.

China expressed concern about the recent numerous casualties in Gaza and called on Israel to show restraint and stop violence against civilians.  China supported an early resolution of the Middle East peace talks and it firmly supported the just cause and aspirations of the Palestinian people to a sovereign State based on the pre-1967 border and with East Jerusalem as its capital.  China was in favour of a firm advance of a political solution based on the two-State solution.  

Mexico was gravely concerned about the recent events, and categorically rejected all violence.  It expressed condolences to the victims.  It supported the holding of this Special Session of the Human Rights Council and believed that the Council must act in a just, balanced, and prompt manner.  It called on all parties to stop the disproportionate use of force.  All parties must comply with international humanitarian law and human rights.  The only solution was two States living in peace and in keeping with international resolutions.  Mexico hoped that this special session might lead to the establishment of an impartial commission of inquiry into the findings.

Venezuela condemned in the strongest possible terms the actions by the State of Israel.  It sent condolences to the families of victims, and supported the dignified Palestinian people who had peacefully protested against the opening of the American Embassy in Israel.  Venezuela condemned unilateral arbitrary acts that sought to continue the illegal presence of Israeli forces and undermined the stability of the region.  These criminal acts must not remain unpunished.  Venezuela reiterated its support for the noble cause of the Palestinian people and their inalienable right to self-determination.

Ecuador condemned the violence against the peaceful protesters, which started on 30 of March, and which led to the deaths of innocent civilians, including children and women, and thousands of injuries.  It condemned the decades of occupation exacerbated by summary executions, disproportionate use of force, and other violations by the State of Israel, and called on Israel to respect the rights of the Palestinian people and to fully comply with international law and human rights as a Member State of the United Nations.  It called on the United Nations to ensure the right to self-determination of all peoples.

Australia expressed deep sadness and regret about the loss of life and injury that had occurred during the protests in Gaza.  But it was of a firm view that Israel had legitimate security concerns, and that it had the right to protect its population.  Israel should also exercise appropriate restraint in the use of force.  Investigations into incidents had to be independent and impartial and all relevant parties should cooperate.  The violence in Gaza underlined the importance of a return to negotiations towards a two-State solution.  

Senegal noted that the high level of violence during the protests in Gaza appealed to everyone’s conscience.  It was crucial to stop the cycle of violence in order to limit the suffering of civilians.  Israel and Palestine should resume peace talks, with the active involvement of the international community, in order to achieve a resolution to the conflict on the basis of a two-State solution.  Senegal called on the Human Rights Council to adopt the proposed resolution by consensus.  

Nigeria strongly condemned the killing of innocent civilians, including children and women, as a result of the use of excessive force by Israel.  Nigeria called on Israel to exercise restraint and to end the continued violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws in the occupied Palestinian territory.  The international community should hasten the process of the amicable resolution of the lingering crisis with a view to achieving durable peace in the entire Middle East.

Saudi Arabia commended the holding of the special session of the Council, and strongly condemned the repeated and appalling aggression by Israel against the Palestinian people.  It reaffirmed its principled position on the Palestinian question and support for the legitimate demands of the Palestinian people and it called on Israel, the occupying power, to implement all international resolutions and to put an end to violence, its settlement activities, home evictions, and the Judaization of Christian and Muslim shrines.  Saudi Arabia criticized the decision of the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem as a biased step.  

Philippines underscored the importance of States’ adherence to principles of international humanitarian law, as well as of the sovereign right of States to defend themselves under international law.  The Philippines urged all parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to exercise self-restraint and maximum tolerance while upholding the principles of human rights as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It urged the international community to continue to undertake a coordinated effort to assist Palestine by providing humanitarian assistance to adversely affected communities.

Nepal was concerned about the recent deteriorating human rights situation in Gaza and offered deep condolences to the families of the victims who had been killed there in recent days.  Nepal believed that excessive and disproportionate use of force was contrary to international human rights and humanitarian law.  It deplored any instigation of violence and called on all parties to the conflict in Gaza to exercise maximum restraint and end the violence, while committing to full respect of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Tunisia deplored the events in the Gaza Strip where Israeli forces had met people with live bullets.  The practice of Israel to face unarmed civilians with excessive force showed that Israel paid no attention to international law or international public opinion.  In view of these flagrant violations, the international community must not stand silent.  These silent consciences must be moved in order to put pressure on Israel in order to stop its violence against the Palestinian people.  Tunisia supported quickly sending an international fact-finding committee to determine the violations perpetrated in the recent events.

Angola viewed with great concern the situation in Gaza, which had resulted in the deaths of women, children, health care workers, and others.  While expressing its condolences and support to the Palestinian people, it called on Israel and Palestine to persist in a dialogue.  The blockade of the Gaza Strip constituted a violation of international humanitarian law.  Angola was of the view that the Commission of Inquiry to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council should have a clear mandate in order to work constructively.  

Malaysia supported the cause of the Palestinian people and their aspiration to self-determination, and it strongly condemned the killing of civilian protesters in Gaza.  Israel’s actions should be independently and thoroughly investigated to achieve accountability, justice and remedy.  

Iceland noted that while Israel had the right to defend itself under attack and to secure its borders, the exercise of that right had to be proportionate.  Iceland thus urged Israel to carry out an independent and transparent investigation into the recent incidents.  It urged Palestinian leaders not to inflame the situation further.  Those who intentionally placed civilians in harm’s way were in breach of international law.

France firmly condemned Israel’s violence against Palestinian protesters in Gaza.  That kind of violence could not be accepted.  France was deeply committed to upholding Israel’s security.  At the same time, it supported the request for the establishment of an independent, international and impartial commission of inquiry, and called on Israel to apply strictly proportionate use of force.  It called for a political solution to the conflict and lifting of the Gaza blockade.  

Holy See echoed the concern and sadness that Pope Francis had voiced when he had responded to the escalation of tensions in the Holy Land and in the Middle East.  All those involved in the recent deplorable actions had to recall the unique identity of Jerusalem which was sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. The Holy See renewed its sincere appeal that wisdom and prudence prevail in a global panorama that was already convulsed and marked by many cruel conflicts.

Bolivia regretted the systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory and strongly condemned the recent violence by Israel against civilians there, which undermined the efforts to achieve peace.  The death of 61 Palestinians, many of them children, was unacceptable, as was the illegal occupation by Israel.  Bolivia resolutely supported all international efforts to reach a two-State solution to the conflict, as well as the draft resolution to establish an independent and impartial commission of inquiry.  

Liechtenstein condemned any incitement to violence or provocation, including by Hamas.  It was essential that all actions and alleged crimes were thoroughly investigated and potential perpetrators held accountable.  Should national authorities fail to do so, the international community had the obligation to step in.  It recalled that Palestine was a State party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and that the Court was currently conducting a preliminary examination into the situation of Palestine.  This factual statement should be reflected in the draft resolution before the Human Rights Council.

Jordan said the eyes of all peoples were looking at the Human Rights Council today, hoping that the international community would shoulder its responsibility.  The world could not sit silent while blood was flowing.  The preservation of the Islamic, Arab and Christian identity of Al-Quds Al-Sharif was a priority for His Majesty King Abdullah II.  Jordan strongly condemned the blockade of Gaza.  There could be no peace without finding a solution to the Palestinian question in which the Palestinian people would live free and in peace without oppression.

Thailand was deeply concerned about the latest round of violence along the Gaza-Israeli borders, which had resulted in some 60 deaths and over 2,000 injuries of Palestinian civilians.  It called on all parties concerned to put an immediate end to the violence and to make an effort to avoid any further escalation of the situation.  It called on all sides to make the utmost efforts to work towards a durable solution to the long-standing conflict, through peaceful negotiations.

Uruguay condemned the death of over 60 civilians which was a direct result of the disproportionality used by the Israeli security forces.  Israel’s justification of protecting its borders in no way abided by international law.  The resolution of the General Assembly for the establishment of a Jewish and Israeli State was the only way to establish peace and security for the Israeli and Palestinian people.  There was a need to return to dialogue.  Uruguay called on all parties to resume negotiations as the only way to achieve full respect of international law.

Yemen said the special secession of the Human Rights Council met today feeling pain of the systematic aggression of the Israeli State on the Palestinian people.  There were over 60 martyrs and thousands inured.  It called on the international community to pay special attention to the Human Rights Council and to strongly condemn Israel, which was in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and human rights, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Yemen fully supported the request by Palestine that the Council adopt the draft resolution submitted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Palestine.

Libya firmly condemned the flagrant violations of human rights carried out by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, which were akin to crimes against humanity.  The practices used by the occupying forces undermined international security and peace.  The international community must not remain silent and Libya called on the Council to face its legal and moral responsibility to protect Palestinians from daily massacres, and to uphold their right to establish an independent State.  

Algeria noted that the death of several dozen peaceful Palestinian protesters had to be firmly and unanimously condemned.  The time had come to put an end to Israel’s impunity and the Council had to institute an international inquiry into the recent crimes against Palestinians.  Algeria called on the international community to end Israel’s occupation and support the inalienable right to self-determination of the Palestinian people

India remained convinced that dialogue was the only viable option to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that the solution to the Palestinian issue should be based on international resolutions.  India hoped to see the realization of an independent Palestinian State coexisting peacefully alongside Israel.  It called on all sides to exercise restraint, to stop violence and bloodshed, and to resume peace talks.  

Tajikistan noted that it was imperative to establish what had happened in Gaza through an immediate independent investigation to thoroughly examine the facts on the ground.  Any further escalation of an already extremely tense and complex situation would cause further unspeakable suffering of the Palestinian people, and would make the perspective of peace and security even more remote.

Syria condemned the terrible massacres carried out by Israel again peaceful Palestinian protesters.  That was part of the pattern of Israeli crimes and brutality, and of its violations of international humanitarian law.  That could not have happened if Israel had not had the protection of the United States.  Syria criticized the enforced displacement of Palestinians, the prohibition of peaceful assembly and other human rights violations, noting that the transfer of the United States embassy to Jerusalem had encouraged Israel to continue its repression and war crimes.    

Viet Nam was concerned about the situation and shared the belief that the Palestinians had the right to fully enjoy their right to life.  It opposed all use of violence and urged the settlement of the conflict by peaceful means.  Efforts should be made to sustain the peace and stability of the region, and the solution should take into account the legitimate concerns of all.  All solutions should also be in line with the Security Council resolutions.  Viet Nam supported the struggle of the Palestinian people and the two-State solution.

Maldives said on 14 May the world had witnessed massive human rights violations in untold proportions.  Dozens of youth had died at the hands of cruel and inhumane acts and an unjustified use of force by the Israeli occupying forces.  This was in grave violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Maldives stood in full solidarity with the Palestinian people, their righteousness and their struggle, and called on the Council to establish an Independent Commission of Inquiry.

Sweden called on Israel to respect the right to peaceful protest.  All measures taken must be proportionate, restrain the use of force, and protect lives.  An independent and transparent investigation was needed.  Sweden fully supported the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry.  Sweden supported a two-State solution with Jerusalem as a capital of both States.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the indiscriminate killings and injuring of people constituted war crimes.  It condemned the open declaration of the United States of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, thus catalysing the situation.  Therefore, the United States should be held accountable for the violations of the human rights of the Palestinians.  It called on Israel to stop at once the mass killings and abide by international humanitarian law and human rights.  It reiterated its support and solidarity for the Palestinian people.

Bangladesh strongly condemned the acts of violence perpetrated by Israeli forces which had resulted in hundreds of death and thousands of injuries.  The United States decision was in total disregard of international norms.  Bangladesh supported the creation of a Commission of Inquiry.  Peace and security could not be achieved by oppression and violence.  Bangladesh supported a two-State solution.  

Malta was deeply concerned by the violence that had resulted in a considerable loss of life.  The status of Jerusalem must be mutually agreed upon through meaningful peace negotiations between both sides.  Malta would continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem as enshrined, inter alia, in the United Nations Security Council resolution 478, including the location of its diplomatic representation, until the final status of Jerusalem was resolved.

Indonesia strongly condemned the excessive use of force by Israel against Palestinian civilians, including women and children.  The international community could no longer turn a blind eye to the recurrence of such horrific acts and thus Indonesia supported the establishment of an independent, international and impartial commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international human rights.

Costa Rica called on Israel to abstain from using excessive force against Palestinian civilians, and it expressed severe concern about the freedom of expression and assembly in the occupied Palestinian territory.  It called for concerted actions of the international community to reject extremist views, and reiterated its position favouring political agreement based on dialogue and a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mali expressed deep concern about the deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and particularly in the Gaza Strip, and the great loss of life there.  It supported the two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and called for the immediate resumption of the Middle East peace talks.

Sudan reiterated its principled solidarity with the Palestinian people and establishment of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  It strongly condemned the violence of Israel against Palestinian civilians, which constituted a gross violation of international law and a provocation to all humanity and faith holders.  Sudan called on the international community to end those violations and to adopt the draft resolution for the establishment of an independent international inquiry into the recent violence.

Lebanon noted that the recent bloodshed in Gaza coincided with the Nakba and would be added to Israel’s long list of aggressive practices.  As usual Israel tried to justify its acts by dehumanizing the protesters, claiming that they were a threat to peace and security.  The Council must take the right decision to investigate those crimes and hold the perpetrators accountable.  

Turkey strongly condemned the use of illegal force, which violated international law.  Turkey strongly supported the convening of this special session and attached utmost importance that the submitted resolution would be adopted by the Human Rights Council.  Only an independent and transparent investigation into the incidents in Gaza would ensure accountability.  The Council had to make sure that impunity did not prevail.  Today, an Extraordinary Islamic Summit was being convened in Istanbul, which Turkey believed would have tangible outcomes.

Namibia strongly condemned the killing of Palestinians.  Such horrifying acts should not go unchallenged as they were in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and human rights and relevant resolutions.  The recent relocation of the United States Embassy complicated the efforts for a lasting peace in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Namibia had supported the holding of this special session and cosponsored the draft resolution because it believed that the Council had a major role to play in the current situation.

Mauritia said for tens of years, the killings by the Israeli oppression machine had continued, without distinction between children, elderly and women.  Mauritania rejected all forms of expression against injustice and repression against the Palestinian people.  The American decision to move its Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv would lead to excessive use of force by the Israeli army.  Mauritania was deeply concerned by this decision and called on Israel to put an end to the violence against the Palestinian people and to establish a Palestinian State in line with the relevant international resolutions.

Oman was deeply concerned about the violations against Palestinian people and condemned the unilateral measures, which brought about negative reaction and violence.  This did not help the efforts to reach a two-State solution, which was supported by the international community.  The legitimate right of Palestinians to reject the decision of the United States to move its Embassy had been unlawfully blocked by force and killings.  This act was in flagrant violation of human rights and humanitarian international law.  

Iran said the recent politically-motivating move of the United States’ Embassy to al-Quds had escalated the already high tensions in the Palestinian occupied territories.  The peaceful assembly and demonstrations of the Palestinian people against this unjustifiable and aggressive event had received a suppressive response from the Israeli regime, the occupying power, and led to the killings and injury of many innocent Palestinian people, including women and children.

Sri Lanka regretted that the special session had convened against the backdrop of death and destruction in the occupied Palestinian territory.  It was important that the security of all civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory received the utmost consideration and that their human rights be upheld and protected at all times.  Dialogue remained a viable option to seek the resolution of prevalent challenges, if peace were to return to all peoples in the region.  

Botswana noted that the international community had a responsibility to protect the lives of the Palestinians and to work together towards the realization of their self-determination.  It called on all parties to exercise restraint and ensure full cooperation with the independent, international commission of inquiry with a view to bringing redress to all victims.  Finally, Botswana reaffirmed its solidarity with the Palestinian people and for the two-State solution to the conflict.

New Zealand stated that while it accepted Israel’s right to maintain its security, its actions had to be lawful and proportionate.  The tragic events in Gaza over the past six weeks had resulted in a devastating one-sided loss of life, including innocent children in the occupied Palestinian territory, which was unacceptable.  Parties on both sides must abide by their obligations to protect civilians.

Bahrain highly appreciated the convening of the special session on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and the grave escalation that threatened the entire region.  It strongly condemned the unjust oppression by Israel against unarmed Palestinian civilians and warned of the negative consequences of such actions.  Bahrain called for the unanimous adoption of the draft resolution to establish an investigation commission into human rights violations by Israel.  

Morocco expressed deep sadness about the events in Gaza and strong condemnation of the flagrant violations of international law by Israel, which were in total disregard of all human values.  The Human Right Council should shoulder its responsibilities by establishing an independent international fact-finding commission.  Interfering into the status of Jerusalem would lead to more tension and undermining of peace.  

Guyana joined those who had expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.  Repeated hostilities served only to deepen and add to the incalculable cost in the loss of human life and material destruction.  That bore tragic testimony to the urgent necessity for parties to return to the negotiating table and renew in earnest the pursuit of a mutually acceptable solution.

Kuwait stated that all United Nations mechanisms had taken swift actions to bring Israel to account and to bring the perpetrators of violations to justice.  It supported the draft resolution to establish an independent commission of inquiry to shed light on the recent events in Gaza during peaceful demonstrations.  Everyone looked up to the Human Rights Council to protect human rights.    

Canada was gravely concerned about the numerous deaths and countless injuries in the Gaza Strip over the past several weeks.  However, it could not support the draft resolution because it prejudged the outcome of an international investigation.  The resolution was one-sided and did not advance the prospects for a peaceful, negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The resolution singled out Israel, without making reference to other actors.

Russian Federation condemned the indiscriminate use of force in the recent events in Gaza.  It once again called upon the parties to refrain from steps that could lead to new violence.  An additional spiral of violence was the United States decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, which ran counter to universally recognized international legal standards.  The outcome must be an end to the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands, as well as the Syrian Golan, and a recognition of borders of a new Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  

Ireland was profoundly shocked by the recent events in Gaza.  Its thoughts were with the families of those killed and with the many who had suffered severe injuries.  Ireland recognized that Israel, like every country, had the right to defend its territory.  International law, however, clearly defined the circumstances in which force could be used against civilians.  It must only be used in cases of real and immediate threat to life, and only as a last resort.  The use of force should be proportionate to the threat posed.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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