US will not defend Israel at UN human rights forum: report – i24news

by NewsStand

The United States will not take the floor at the main UN human rights forum in Geneva on Monday during the annual debate on alleged Israeli violations committed in the Palestinian territories, a US spokesman told Reuters.

The step, which is unprecedented at the 47-member state forum where Washington unfailingly defends Israel, follows signals that the Obama administration is undertaking a “reassessment” of relations with the Jewish state.

The United States has reportedly been considering a reevaluation of ties with Israel, including its automatic support for the Jewish state at the United Nations Security Council, for at least four months, Israeli sources told Channel 2 News last week. White House told American reporters last week that the reassessment was prompted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comment last week rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian state.

On March 2, US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a vigorous defense of Israel before the UN Human Rights Council, urging its members to end what the United States says is its unfair and biased focus on the Jewish State that could undermine its credibility.

But as Monday’s debate began in Geneva, a US spokesman told Reuters: “The US delegation will not be speaking about Palestine today.”

The session was presented with a report by a special UN investigator, which accuses Israel of “deliberately” targeting civilian homes in Gaza during last summer’s war with Hamas. The report was being presented by special rapporteur Makarim Wibisono of Indonesia.

The report will form part of the basis for a UNHRC debate on alleged Israeli violations of human rights. The Council will also be briefed on the findings of a UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry into the Gaza war, headed by former New York Supreme Court judge Mary McGowan Davis. The commission had been due to present its final report at the session, but following the resignation of its previous head, Canadian law professor William Schabas, it asked for a delay until June.

In his first report to the UNHRC, Wibisono wrote that “most victims were families killed in missile strikes on their own homes, usually at night.

“In the non-exhaustive list of cases brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur, almost all of the families lost one or more infants or children.” The content of his report was reported Monday by The Jerusalem Post.

Israel estimates that some 2,100 Palestinians were killed during the Gaza war, of which about half were Hamas or Islamic Jihad fighters.

The UN’s casualty count, Wibisono said, listed 2,256 Palestinian fatalities, of which 1,563 were civilians, including 538 children. “On principle,” he said, “ten children died every day over a period of 50 days” during the conflict.

This casualty count is more than the two previous conflicts with Hamas in Gaza, he wrote, adding that it is disproportionately higher than the 66 Israeli soldiers and five civilians who died during the war.

The “stark disparity in casualty figures on the two sides, he said, reflects the skewered balance of power and disproportionate cost borne by Palestinian civilians.

Wibisono noted that Israel had explained that it was responding to indiscriminate rocket fire by Palestinian armed groups from homes and hospitals when it attacked civilian areas. However, personal testimony, satellite imagery and the high civilian death count raised questions as to whether Israel adhered to the “international principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions.”

With regard to the West Bank, he charged that “trigger happy” soldiers used excessive force when dealing with Palestinian protests.

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