UN rights chief says end of Israeli 'occupation' would benefit both sides

"Maintain the occupation and for both peoples there will only be a prolongation of immense pain," says Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein.

June 6, 2017 12:12
1 minute read.
Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein of Jordan. (photo credit: REUTERS/PIERRE ALBOUY)

GENEVA - The top United Nations human rights official called on Tuesday for an end to what he said was Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory, saying it would benefit both sides after 50 years of enmity.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, in a speech opening a three-week session of the UN Human Rights Council, said that the Palestinian people were marking "a half-century of deep suffering under an occupation imposed by military force."

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Israelis also deserve freedom from violence, he said, adding: "Maintain the occupation and for both peoples there will only be a prolongation of immense pain."

UN staff reported on Monday that 163 Iraqi civilians were shot and killed by Islamic State in western Mosul on June 1 "to prevent them from fleeing," Zeid told the Geneva forum, which US ambassador Nikki Haley will address later in the day.

His remarks came the day after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the five-decades-long Israeli "occupation" has imposed a "heavy humanitarian and development burden on the Palestinian people" and "fueled recurring cycles of violence and retribution."

The UN chief expressed his concerns regarding the prospects for regional peace in the Middle East in a statement as Israel marks 50 years since it won the Six Day War in which it reunited Jerusalem.

Haley is set to address the UN Human Rights Council amid reports that her country may pull out of the body over its treatment of Israel.

“The United States is expected to signal on Tuesday that it might withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council unless reforms are ushered in including the removal of what it sees as an “anti-Israel bias,” Reuters reported on Monday.

After addressing the opening day of the body’s 35th session, Haley will host a panel on “Human Rights and Democracy in Venezuela” and address the Graduate Institute in Geneva before heading to Israel.

She is expected to visit the Western Wall, as US President Donald Trump did during his May trip.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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