[QODLink]
Middle East
Israel accused of 'new Gaza crime'
UN official says not allowing Palestinians to flee combat zone is crime against humanity.
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2009 03:16 GMT
Thousands of homes in Gaza were destroyed or damaged during the Israeli offensive [EPA]

A senior UN official has suggested that Israel should be held accountable for a "new crime against humanity" during its January assault on the Gaza strip.

Richard Falk, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said Israel had confined Palestinian civilians to the combat zone in Gaza, a unique move which should be outlawed.

"Such a war policy should be treated as a distinct and new crime against humanity, and should be formally recognised as such, and explicitly prohibited," Falk said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.

Palestinian civilians were prevented from leaving the Gaza Strip during the three-week bombardment by the Israeli authorities.

Falk also called for an investigation into Israel's attack on Gaza, in which more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed and homes destroyed.

Israel said it carried out the assault to stop Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel.

Report condemned

Falk's comments formed part of a much longer report from nine UN investigators including specialists on the right to health, food, adequate housing and education, as well as on summary executions and violence against women.

"We've found the rapporteur's views to be anything but fair. We find them to be biased. We've made that very clear"

Robert Wood, US state department spokesman

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN secretary-general's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, accused Israeli forces of using a child as a human shield in one incident.

Soldiers forced an 11-year-old boy to walk in front of them for several hours as they moved through the town of Tal al-Hawa on January 15, even after they had been shot at, her report said.

Aharon Leshno Yar, Israel's ambassador to the UN rights council, condemned the report, saying it "wilfully ignores and downplays the terrorist and other threats we face", and the alleged use by Palestinian fighters of human shields.

The US accused Falk of being biased.

"We've found the rapporteur's views to be anything but fair. We find them to be biased. We've made that very clear," Robert Wood, a US state department spokesman, told a media briefing on Monday.

'War crime'

Falk called for the probe to assess if the Israeli forces could differentiate between civilian and military targets in Gaza.

In depth


Analysis and features from after the war

"If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful, and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law," Falk said in the report.

"On the basis of the preliminary evidence available, there is reason to reach this conclusion," he added, saying that attacks occurred in densely populated areas.

Falk, who has been critical of Israel in the past, was expelled from Israel during an attempt to visit Gaza in December, after he said Israel's policies on the territory amounted to a crime against humanity.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
Since independence, Zimbabwe has faced food shortages, hyperinflation - and several political crises.
After a sit-in protest at Poland's parliament, lawmakers are set to raise government aid to carers of disabled youth.
A vocal minority in Ukraine's east wants to join Russia, and Kiev has so far been unable to put down the separatists.
Iran's government has shifted its take on 'brain drain' but is the change enough to reverse the flow?
Deadly attacks on anti-mining activists in the Philippines part of a global trend, according to new report.
join our mailing list