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People wait to receive food relief in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah Alamy Stock Photo

UN Human Rights Council demands halt to all arms sales to Israel

It is the first time the United Nations top rights body has taken a position on the conflict.


THE UN HUMAN Rights Council has demanded a halt to all arms sales to Israel, highlighting warnings of “genocide” in its war in Gaza, which has killed more than 33,000 people.

The resolution – which passed with 28 of the council’s 47 member states voting in favour, six opposed and 13 abstaining – marked the first time the United Nations top rights body has taken a position on the bloodiest-ever war to beset the besieged Palestinian territory.

The strongly worded text called on countries to “cease the sale, transfer and diversion of arms, munitions and other military equipment to Israel… to prevent further violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights”.

It stressed that the International Court of Justice ruled in January “that there is a plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza.

Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, slammed the resolution as “a stain for the Human Rights Council and for the UN as a whole”.

The resolution was brought forward by Pakistan on behalf of all Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states except Albania, and also called for “an immediate ceasefire” and “for immediate emergency humanitarian access and assistance”.

‘Stop this genocide’

“We need you all to wake up and stop this genocide, a genocide televised around the world,” Palestinian ambassador Ibrahim Mohammad Khraishi told the council before the vote.

Shahar meanwhile told council members that “a vote yes is a vote for Hamas”.

Key ally, the United States, heeded Israel’s call to vote no, as did Germany, Argentina, Bulgaria, Malawi and Paraguay.

US ambassador Michele Taylor agreed that “far too many civilians have been killed in this conflict and that every civilian death is a tragedy”, acknowledging that “Israel has not done enough to mitigate civilian harm”.

But she said Washington could not support the text, which she said contained “many problematic elements”, including its failure to specifically condemn Hamas and its 7 October attacks.

While the resolution did not name Hamas, it did condemn the firing of rockets at Israeli civilian areas and demanded “the immediate release of all remaining hostages”.

It repeatedly named Israel, demanding that the country end its occupation of all Palestinian territories and “immediately lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip and all other forms of collective punishment”.

The vote came after the UN Security Council in New York last week also finally passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire, thanks to an abstention from Washington.

Temporary aid

Earlier, Israel said it will allow “temporary” aid deliveries into famine-threatened northern Gaza. It came after the US had warned of a sharp shift in its policy over the conflict.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said today his security cabinet has approved a series of “immediate steps”, including the temporary reopening of the Erez crossing for the first time since the Hamas attack.

It also said Israel would allow its port in Ashdod to process aid shipments bound for Gaza, as well as permitting an increase in Jordanian aid shipments through another land crossing.

“This increased aid will prevent a humanitarian crisis and is necessary to ensure the continuation of the fighting and to achieve the goals of the war,” Netanyahu’s office said.

The announcement didn’t elaborate on quantities or types of items to be let in.

The decision came after US President Joe Biden called on Israel to take steps “to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering and the safety of aid workers” during a phone call with Netanyahu following the attack on a World Central Kitchen relief convoy which killed seven aid workers.

erez-kibbutz-israel-03rd-jan-2024-a-view-of-erez-crossing-as-it-remains-closed-as-fighting-between-israeli-troops-and-islamist-hamas-militants-continues-credit-ilia-yefimovichdpaalamy-live-new A view of the Erez crossing point on 3 January Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The heavily fortified Erez crossing served for years as the only passenger terminal for people to move in and out of the territory.

It was heavily damaged when Hamas militants stormed the facility on 7 October and has remained closed ever since.

The United Nations says much of the population in northern Gaza is on the brink of starvation.

White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson welcomed the moves, saying the plan “must now be fully and rapidly implemented”. 

“As the President said today on the call, US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these and other steps, including steps to protect innocent civilians and the safety of aid workers,” she said.

gaza-4th-apr-2024-people-walk-among-the-rubble-of-destroyed-buildings-after-an-israeli-airstrike-in-maghazi-refugee-camp-central-gaza-strip-on-april-4-2024-the-ministry-of-health-in-the-gaza-st People walk among the rubble of destroyed buildings after an Israeli airstrike in Maghazi refugee camp Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The Pentagon said yesterday that plans to build a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza to help boost the flow of aid into the territory continue to move forward.

Major General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said the floating pier – announced by Biden during his State of the Union address last month – will be on line by the end of the month or early May.

Ryder said Israel has agreed to provide security on the shore as aid is transferred and distributed, but details are still being worked out.

Biden-Netanyahu call

Palestinians in northern Gaza have had to survive on an average of just 245 calories per day – less than a can of beans – since January, according to Oxfam.

Charities have repeatedly accused Israel of throttling aid and targeting convoys, with the dangerous work of trying to stem a famine underscored this week by an Israeli strike that killed seven humanitarian workers distributing food in Gaza.

“The strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation are unacceptable,” Biden told Netanyahu, according to a White House readout of their call.

In a statement following the leaders’ call, the White House said Biden “made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers”.

“He made clear that US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps,” the statement said.

Biden also told Netanyahu an “immediate ceasefire is essential” and urged Israel to reach such an accord “without delay”, according to the White House, which described the conversation as “direct” and “honest”.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby acknowledged Biden’s “growing frustration” with Netanyahu, but reiterated that US support for Israel’s security was “ironclad”.

The bloodiest ever Gaza conflict began with Hamas’s attack on 7 October that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 Israelis and foreigners, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Palestinian militants also took more than 250 hostages on 7 October, and 130 remain in Gaza, including 34 who the army says are dead.

Includes reporting by Press Association and © AFP 2024