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UN mulls breach in civilian legal buffers in Gaza

 A Palestinian boy cries during the funeral of Hamas militant Mohammed Ketnani in Gaza City, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009. Israel showed no signs of slowi...
 Palestinians react during a funeral of four men killed in Israeli military operations, at the mosque in Beit Lahiya northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, J...
 Palestinian relatives mourn over the body of Hamas militant Mohammed Ketnani during his funeral in Gaza City, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009. Israel showed...
 Palestinian relatives of Hamas militant Yousef Tamboura react during his funeral in Beit Lahiya northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009. Israel...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

A Palestinian boy cries during the funeral of Hamas militant Mohammed Ketnani in Gaza City, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009. Israel showed no signs of slowi...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

Palestinians react during a funeral of four men killed in Israeli military operations, at the mosque in Beit Lahiya northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, J...

APTOPIX MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

Palestinian relatives mourn over the body of Hamas militant Mohammed Ketnani during his funeral in Gaza City, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009. Israel showed...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

Palestinian relatives of Hamas militant Yousef Tamboura react during his funeral in Beit Lahiya northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009. Israel...

U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes denounced all sides in the Israeli-Hamas conflict Wednesday, telling the Security Council the fighting is "terrifying" for civilians and Hamas's rocket attacks on southern Israel violate international laws.
"These attacks (by Hamas) are contrary to international humanitarian law and must cease," Holmes told the council during a session on protecting civilians globally. "Yet any Israeli response must itself comply with international humanitarian law. Here, too, there is considerable and grave cause for concern."
Hardest hit are the children who make up almost a third of the 1,000 Palestinians killed since the Israeli offensive began Dec. 27, he said, while 13 Israelis have been killed and up to 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes.
"The situation for the civilian population of Gaza is terrifying, and its psychological impact felt particularly by children and their parents who feel helpless and unable to protect them," said Holmes, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.
Ann Veneman, executive director of the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, said Wednesday in Johannesburg, South Africa, that "absolute priority must given to" protecting the children among Gaza's 1.5 million population who are "bearing the brunt of a conflict which is not theirs."
The U.N. Security Council resolution adopted last Thursday night in a 14-0 vote, with the U.S. abstaining, stresses that civilians on both sides of the conflict must be protected according to international principles.
"Can we look at what has been happening in Gaza in the last three weeks and say that either Israel or Hamas has come close to respecting fully these rules? I think not," Holmes said Wednesday. "Allegations of violations must be fully investigated and those responsible held to account."
The U.N. Staff Union called Wednesday for stronger U.N. action to protect innocent civilians and U.N. staff in Gaza, in light of incidents in which more than 40 people died near a U.N. school and a U.N. aid-delivery driver were killed this month.
The union said it "protests the escalating harassment and violence directed against both international and Palestinian humanitarian staff working to help innocent civilians affected by the fighting. It demands an immediate and full investigation of these incidents."
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. observer, said Tuesday "we are considering all the legal options open to us. This time those criminals responsible for slaughtering Palestinian civilians from the Israeli side need to face justice."
Navi Pillay, the U.N.'s high commissioner for human rights on Friday urged an independent investigation, saying violations of international humanitarian law may amount to war crimes for which individuals should be held accountable.
In recent days Holmes and other senior U.N. humanitarian officials have issued a steady drumbeat of warnings: A half-million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip lack running water or power. Eighty percent of Gaza's water is unfit for human consumption. Sewage flows in some northern Gaza streets.
Israel allowed some humanitarian aid convoys to enter Gaza, but shipments and distribution are often disrupted by fighting. The U.N. suspended aid distribution for several days after a U.N. truck driver was killed by Israeli fire, but resumed aid delivery Monday.
John Ging, the Irishman who heads Gaza's operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, has joined Holmes by video-link more than a half-dozen times to detail the compounding effects of lack of food, water and electricity.
Ging calls for independent investigation, too, and says the U.N. can offer only refuge to Palestinians fleeing their homes for U.N. schools and other makeshift shelters, but not a "safe haven" because nowhere is safe.
"We still have 40,000 seeking refuge in our shelters," he said Wednesday. "The all-pervasive fear continues to be ever-present."


Updated : 2021-07-24 23:45 GMT+08:00