United Nations: The UN human rights chief sharply criticized Israel on Monday, calling recent killings by its soldiers during Palestinian demonstrations along the Gaza border fence “shocking.”
Recent months have seen an uptick in violence on Israel’s border with Gaza and violent clashes at weekly protests. Friday saw the killing of an IDF soldier by terrorists , massive airstrikes in Gaza and the firing of hundreds of rockets and mortars into Israel.
In addition, Palestinians in Gaza have launched many hundreds of kites, balloons and inflated latex condoms bearing flammable materials, and occasionally explosives, into Israeli territory, sparking near-daily fires that have burned thousands of acres of farmland, parks and forests.
However, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said it was vital to address the root causes of the Gaza demonstrations. Zeid placed no responsibility on the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip and openly calls for the destruction of Israel.
In a video address to the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, he said that the situation in Gaza has escalated dramatically in recent months with “the potential to generate threats to peace across a far broader region.”
Zeid, who heads the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said it is essential for all parties to cooperate with the independent, international commission of inquiry into the recent deadly events in Gaza that his office is helping to establish. It was authorized by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council on May 18 “to advance accountability” for the killings and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, he said.
He claimed that there are “serious concerns” that Israeli accountability mechanisms don’t comply with international standards of “independence, impartiality, and effectiveness.”
“Very few investigations ever occur,” he said. “In the rare cases where an investigation has led to an indictment, the sentence has been extremely lenient in light of the gravity of the crime committed.”
Israel says its troops are defending the border and accuses Hamas of trying to carry out terror attacks under the cover of the protests.Since the organized protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30, more than 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire.
Dozens of the fatalities were members of terror groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have said. More than 4,000 were wounded.
The Israeli military says it has insisted its soldiers adhere to the rules of engagement to defend Israeli civilians and security infrastructure from attacks cloaked by the protests.
In addition to “grossly inadequate living conditions” caused by Israel’s blockade for the residents of Gaza, most of whom are descendants of refugees, restrictive measures have also been imposed by Egypt that have “exacerbated these conditions,” Zeid said.
Israel says it maintains the blockade to prevent Gaza’s Hamas rulers from importing weaponry.
Zeid added that the situation in Gaza may be “severely aggravated” in the coming months by the financial crisis facing the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, as a result of dramatic cuts to its budget by the trunk adminstration in the US.