UN Report Assails Israel’s Military Tactics Against Palestinian Civilians
By Munir K. Nasser
Chief Correspondent, Washington, DC
The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Israel to curb its military action against Palestinians and to accept an international monitoring presence in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Reporting on her recent visit to the Middle East, UN High Commissioner Mary Robinson assailed Israel's military tactics against Palestinian civilians and expressed her deep concern about the serious deterioration of the situation in the West Bank and the terrible cost it has taken in terms of human lives.
Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland, criticized Israel's armed forces for firing live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets and rockets against civilian targets. It said "a wide range of observers, including United Nations representatives" have concluded that Israel's military response to Palestinian unrest in recent weeks has been "excessive and inappropriate."
Robinson recommended that all cases of the use of lethal force on both sides should be investigated and subjected to the processes of justice in order to avoid impunity. In addition, the High Commissioner calls on Israeli authorities to facilitate access by UN staff to those in need of assistance. She also recommended that victims of the violence be given financial compensation for the loss of family members or property.
The report recommends that the security forces of both sides act in full conformity with the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. "Whenever force is used, the principle of proportionality has to be applied, and all necessary measures have to be taken to avoid loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian property," the report states.
Among other recommendations, the report calls on Israel to halt the construction of new settlements and the removal of those located in the midst of heavily populated Palestinian areas.
"The human rights situation in the Occupied Territories is bleak," Robinson wrote. "The civilian population feels besieged by a stronger power prepared to use its superior force against demonstrations and stone-throwing by adolescents."
Robinson also said unemployment among Palestinians has tripled since October, causing the loss of more than $10 million a day in income. While approximately 128,000 Palestinian workers have been barred from commuting to jobs in Israel, she said, Israeli settlers are permitted free passage across the pre-1967 border along Israeli-only bypass roads.
Robinson voiced "concern" about allegations that Israeli forces prevented ambulance drivers from collecting wounded Palestinians. During her visit to Gaza, she said, she witnessed Israeli forces prohibiting two ambulances from attending to casualties.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials in Washington condemned Robinson's report as one-sided. A spokesman at the Israeli Embassy in Washington told the Washington Post that the UN report is an “attempt to place the onus on Israel for the recent violence, and to absolve the Palestinians of their responsibilities." He claimed that Israel is engaged in a "sort of mini-war" against gunmen and bombers, not just stone-throwing youths.
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