UN experts welcome cease-fire in Gaza and Israel, call for ICC probe

UN human rights experts on Friday called on all parties to respect the new cease-fire between Palestinian groups and Israel and urged an investigation by the International Criminal Court into attacks on civilian populations and other gross violations of human rights.

The experts, in a statement, pointed to the forced evictions of Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem as the spark that set off a full-blown war.

Since May 10, at least 243 people, including 39 women and 66 children, died in Gaza, and thousands were injured, while 12 people died in Israel due to the fighting.

“More than 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip were completely destroyed or damaged by missiles,” said the experts.

“Among them were six hospitals, nine healthcare centers, and a water desalination plant, supplying around 250,000 Palestinians with clean drinking water, as well as a tower housing media offices such as Al Jazeera and the Associated Press.”

The experts include Balakrishnan Rajagopal, special rapporteur on adequate housing; S. Michael Lynk, special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Pedro Arrojo Agudo, special rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation; and Koumbou Boly Barry, special rapporteur on the right to education.

The experts said that owing to the vast asymmetry of power, the victims of this conflict are disproportionately Palestinians in Gaza, “of whom over 74,000 have been forcibly displaced and made homeless, mostly women and children.”

The conflict led to a new wave of unprecedented mass destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure, including electrical grids in Gaza and indiscriminate or deliberate missile attacks on civilians and residential areas in Israel and Gaza.

They said that the destruction violated international human rights standards and “amount as well to crimes under international law for which there is individual and State responsibility.”

The experts added: “The indiscriminate or deliberate bombardment of civilians and towers housing civilians, media organizations and refugee camps in Gaza and Israel are war crimes that are, prima facie, not justified by the requirements of proportionality and necessity under international law.”

The experts said that parties who engage in such attacks must bear individual and state responsibility, as appropriate.

“We urge Israel and the authorities in Gaza to restore electrical, fuel, water and food supply to Gaza, and to ensure that humanitarian aid assistance can enter into the Gaza Strip,” they said.

There is an immediate need to offer emergency housing and restore homes that have been destroyed or rendered unusable.

“We call on all States, especially those who support Israel or the Palestinian authorities materially, to cease the export of all military weapons that fuel this conflict and condition all other assistance on compliance with human rights and humanitarian law,” the experts said.

They also urged all sides to commit to a credible process of negotiation that will aim for durable peace in the framework of international law and human rights.

They also urged an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories, forced evictions and housing demolitions, arbitrary displacement and unlawful transfer of population, and illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

“We also call on them to address discrimination and segregation experienced by residents in the occupied territories as well as by many Palestinian citizens within Israel, including in education, housing, the freedom of movement and choice of place of residence and other domains.”

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