UN: Israel, Palestinians nearing humanitarian crisis

Arbour says Israel must do more, citing government's responsibility to ensure movement of goods into and from the Gaza Strip.

United Nations AP 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
United Nations AP 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The United Nations' human rights chief warned Friday that Israel and the Palestinians were "on the brink" of a humanitarian and human rights crisis, denouncing both Israeli strikes against members of terror organizations and Palestinian suicide bombings of Israelis. "The rising number of lives lost, whether as a result of targeted killings or suicide attacks, homemade missiles or artillery fire, is unacceptable," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said. "Civilians, particularly the most vulnerable, such as children, women and the elderly, should not pay the price for the neglect of human rights and humanitarian obligations," she said in a statement, released at the global body's European headquarters in Geneva. Arbour was seriously concerned about the situation in the region, saying both sides needed "to reaffirm their commitment to international human rights law and humanitarian law, and to prioritize human rights on their respective agendas." Since Hamas won January 25 parliamentary elections, the Palestinian government has grown increasingly isolated. Western nations, which list Hamas as a terror group, cut off all funding to the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli government froze its monthly transfer of US$55 million it collects in taxes for the Palestinians. The economic boycott has left the Palestinian government unable to pay its 165,000 workers, causing a deepening financial crisis throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Israel, pressured by international alarm over a brewing Palestinian humanitarian crisis, agreed to release tens of millions of dollars in funds it has withheld from the Palestinians, and is considering easing restrictions on the transport of goods between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Arbour said Israel must do more, citing the government's responsibility to ensure the movement of goods, including humanitarian assistance, into and from the Gaza Strip. "As the occupying power, Israel bears responsibility under international humanitarian law ... for the welfare of the Palestinian population," she said. The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, "has the urgent duty to do everything in its power to maintain law and order, prevent attacks on Israeli civilians, investigate those attacks that have taken place, and bring to justice those responsible," she said. Arbour also called on all 192 signatories to the Geneva Conventions on warfare "to use their moral authority with a view to making parties to the conflict stop this new cycle of violence and respect these conventions."