x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Envoy calls on Israel to end abuse

A government envoy has called on Israeli forces to stop what he called the torture of Palestinian women and children.

NEW YORK // A government envoy has called on Israeli forces to stop what he called the torture of Palestinian women and children. Hamad Obaid al Zaabi, from the UAE mission to the UN, has outlined a catalogue of alleged human rights violations against Arab civilians in a debate at UN headquarters. Mr Zaabi said Israeli forces were responsible for "very serious violations and unacceptable practices". The third secretary was addressing the UN General Assembly's decolonisation committee after Israel had denied human rights investigators access to the Gaza Strip. "The Israeli Government has, since 2007, been pursuing a policy of blockading and isolating the Gaza Strip, imposing a form of collective punishment by preventing the delivery of fuels, drugs and food," Mr Zaabi said in debate last week. "This is without mentioning the Israeli military incursions into occupied territories and the practices of torture and detention against civilian populations - even women and children." Envoys to the Fourth Committee attended the two-day debate to discuss the 40th report on Israel's human rights violations against Palestinians, and other Arabs living under occupation. The investigating team's chairman, HMGS Palihakkara of Sri Lanka, said Israel had stopped his unit entering the Jewish state or its occupied territories, forcing it to interview affected Arabs in Jordan, Syria and Egypt. The team's report said Israel's blockade of Gaza had disabled the strip's economy and denied Palestinians the opportunity to work, with almost half of the 1.5 million population jobless. The 16-month siege had left 80 per cent of inhabitants needing food handouts, young children suffering from malnutrition and anaemia, and more than 90 per cent of businesses and workshops shut down. Israel's expansion of towns and villages in the West Bank was ranked as another serious problem, with a separation wall violating the right of Palestinians to travel freely. Delegates have also complained that Israel arbitrarily arrests large numbers of Palestinians and is now holding about 11,000 civilians - including nearly 400 children and more than 100 women - behind bars. "Israel must put an end to the blockade on Gaza and comply with resolutions adopted by the international community urging them to withdraw from all territories that have been occupied by Israel since 1967 [and] to put an end to aggressive practices against the population," Mr Zaabi said. The debate saw delegates from Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia - among a host of members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference - address the chamber. In a previous session, Israel's envoy to the committee, Aviva Rav-Shechter, defended her government's record, saying West Bank roadblocks and checkpoints had been removed to improve conditions for Palestinians. Reducing controls had seen 66 per cent more goods pass between the West Bank and Israel in the first half of the year, while Israel had allowed 2,000 trucks loaded with supplies into Gaza during September. "We have no desire to harm or restrict Palestinians in any way, but Israel cannot afford to hesitate to take action when the lives of its own citizens are continuously threatened," Mrs Rav-Shechter said. jreinl@thenational.ae