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Friday, January 16, 2009

Israel 'breaking law' with Gaza war



Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann has been a vocal
critic of the Israeli offensive [Al Jazeera]

The president of the United Nations General Assembly has accused Israel of violating international law with its war on Gaza in which almost 1,100 Palestinians have been killed, nearly half of them civilians.

"Gaza is ablaze. It has been turned into a burning hell," Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann told an emergency session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday.

He said Israel's offensive was "a war against a helpless, defenceless and imprisoned people" and accused Israel of carrying out attacks on civilian targets.

"The violations of international law inherent in the Gaza assault have been well documented: collective punishment, disproportionate military force [and] attacks on civilian targets, including homes, mosques, universities, schools," he said.

He also rebuked UN member-states for their lack of action over the crisis, saying: "The [UN Security Council] may have found itself unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to impose an immediate ceasefire, but outsourcing that effort to one or two governments, or through the quartet, does not relieve the council of its own responsibilities under the UN charter.

"The council cannot disavow its collective responsibility. It cannot continue to fiddle while Gaza burns."

Ryad Mansour, the Palestinian observer at the UN, called for an independent investigation of Israel's "grave breaches and systematic violations of international law".

"Since this crisis began, it is without a doubt that a multitude of war crimes have been perpetrated by the occupying power [Israel]," he said while also calling for "measures for the protection of the defenceless Palestinian civilian population."

Gabriela Shalev, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, dismissed the session as a "cynical, hateful and politicised [attempt] to de-legitimize Israel's fundamental right to defend its citizens".

Gaza war 'genocide'

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The emergency meeting had been requested by the 118-member UN member states making up the non-aligned movement.

An Israeli delegate had sought to block the session on procedural grounds by arguing that under the UN charter the 192-member assembly could not rule on a matter already being tackled by the Security Council, but the move was dismissed.

D'Escoto noted that the Security Council last week had called for a Gaza ceasefire leading to the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

"Prime Minister Olmert's recent statement disavowing the authority of Resolution 1860 [the Security Council resolution] clearly places Israel as a state in contempt of international law and the United Nations," d'Escoto added.

He urged the assembly to agree its own non-binding assembly resolution reflecting "the urgency of our commitment to end this slaughter" in Gaza.

Israel has continued its offensive regardless of the resolution which was also rejected by Hamas.

D'Escoto, a former Nicaraguan foreign minister, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that Israel's killings of Palestinians in Gaza amounted to "genocide".

Almost 1,100 Palestinians have been killed during Israel's Gaza offensive, which Israel says is to stop Palestinian rocketfire coming from Gaza.

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