Huffpost WorldPost

UN Envoy: Israel May Be Required To Take Responsibility For Displaced In Gaza

Posted: Updated:
GAZA
A displaced Palestinian girl stands next to a makeshift tent at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City where many Palestinians have have taken refuge after fleeing attacks in the Shejaiya neighbourhood of the city, on July 31, 2014. With more than 220,000 Palestinians already sheltering in UN facilities -- four times the number from the last Gaza conflict in 2008-2009 -- the top UN refugee official Philippe Krahenbuhl said he had reached breaking point. AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit s | MAHMUD HAMS via Getty Images


By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 (Reuters) - Israel will be required under international law to take responsibility for helping Palestinian civilians if there are any further large-scale displacements from the fighting in Gaza, a top U.N. envoy told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.

The United Nations is struggling to cope with a flood of some 220,000 Palestinian civilians into shelters. They have come under fire during three weeks of fighting between Israel and Islamist Hamas militants who dominate Gaza.

Pierre Krähenbühl, the Swiss-born chief of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said the impoverished enclave of 1.8 million Palestinians was facing a precipice, and added that he was alarmed to hear that Israel had warned more neighborhoods in Gaza to evacuate ahead of military action.

"Should further large-scale displacement indeed occur, the occupying power, according to international humanitarian law, will have to assume direct responsibility to assist these people," he told the 15-member Security Council by telephone from Gaza City.

"With as many as 2,500 displaced people residing in (each U.N.) school and an average of 80 people to a classroom, we have exceeded the tolerable limits we can accommodate," he said.

According to the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and occupations, an occupying power must "to the fullest extent of the means available to it" ensure public health, hygiene, food and medical supplies for the civilians under occupation.

Eight U.N. employees have been killed since Israel launched its offensive on July 8 after Hamas rocket fire from Gaza intensified. Dozens of people have been killed in attacks on U.N. schools sheltering civilians, while caches of rockets have been found in vacant U.N. schools in Gaza on three occasions.

"The reality of Gaza today is that no place is safe," U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos told the Security Council via a video link. "We have all watched in horror the desperation of children, of civilians as they have come under attack."

She said 80 percent of the more than 1,300 Palestinians killed were civilians, including 251 children, while three Israeli civilians and 56 Israeli soldiers had died. Amos, a former British minister, said nearly a quarter of the Palestinian population in Gaza were displaced.

"The relief effort is stretched," Amos said. "Until a longer-term ceasefire is agreed, we need more humanitarian pauses to enable us to reach those in need."

After meeting behind closed doors for more than four hours following the briefing, the Security Council reiterated its call for an "immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire."

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the council debated a statement to condemn the deadly attacks on U.N. schools, the rockets hidden in vacant schools and the deaths of U.N. staff, but could not reach agreement.

Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour accused Israel of carrying out a genocide, while Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor accused Hamas - blacklisted as a terrorist group by many Western countries - of using civilians as human shields. (Additional reporting by Mirjam Donath; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Paul Simao)

live blog

Oldest Newest

From Reuters:

The White House on Friday urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks and do what they can to protect civilians after Egyptian-mediated negotiations failed to extend a ceasefire and rocket fire resumed.

"The United States is very concerned about today's developments in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

"We condemn the renewed rocket fire and we are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides of that conflict," he said.

Share this: tumblr

Five Palestinians, including a 10-year-old boy, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since a ceasefire fell apart on Friday, a Palestinian medical official reported to Agence France Presse.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army said Palestinian militants fired 35 rockets into Israel on Friday, injuring a soldier and a civilian.

gaza
The father of a ten-year old Palestinian boy, who was killed in an Israeli air strike on the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in northern Gaza City, mourns at the city's Al-Shifa hospital, on August 8, 2014. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Share this: tumblr

From Reuters:

Palestinian factions will remain in Cairo and press on with Egyptian-mediated talks despite the end of the ceasefire in Gaza, the head of the delegation, Fatah official Azzam Ahmed, said on Friday.

"We are not for escalation. We are ready to continue through our Egyptian brothers in negotiating to reach a final agreement that would return the rights to their owners," Ahmed said. "I mean here lifting the blockade of Gaza."

Ahmed said Palestinian negotiators were due to meet Egyptian intelligence officials, who have been mediating the talks, later in the day. He said Palestinian factions were united in their decision not to extend the 72-hour truce that ended at 0500 GMT and had been clear about their basic demands to end the conflict.

Share this: tumblr

Reuters reports:

Egypt called on Friday for an immediate resumption of the ceasefire in Gaza and a return to the negotiating table, saying that only a few outstanding issues remained in negotiations it was mediating between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The foreign ministry calls on all sides to rise to their responsibilities ... and to return immediately to the ceasefire commitment and exploit the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr

A 72-hour cease-fire expired at 8 a.m. today, and not long after, Gaza militants began firing rockets at Israel, The Associated Press reported.

The Israeli military said at least 10 rockets had been fired at Israel since the truce ended. Prior to the attacks, a senior official for Hamas said the militant groups would not extend the cease-fire.

For more, click here.

Share this: tumblr

From Reuters:

Israel has conditionally agreed to extend a ceasefire that ended a month of fighting in Gaza beyond a Friday deadline, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official did not say for how much longer Israel had agreed to extend the truce, only that: "Israel has expressed its readiness to extend the truce under its current terms," referring to the deal brokered by Egypt that took effect on Tuesday.

Hamas had no immediate comment.

Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr

ABC Foreign Editor Jon Williams reports that the IDF have confirmed the rocket sirens are sounding, but are checking to see if it is a false alarm.

Share this: tumblr
08/05/2014 4:20 PM EDT
Israel Arrests Kidnapping Suspect

Reuters reports that Israel has arrested one of the suspects in the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June.

Hussam Kawasme, a 40-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested on July 11 in connection with the killing of Israelis Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, who went missing on June 12 and were discovered dead a couple of weeks later.

Their kidnapping sparked a cycle of violence that led to the month-long conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Kawasme's arrest was made public for the first time on Tuesday in a document from an Israeli court case over whether houses belonging to him and two other suspects - who remain at large - should be destroyed as a punitive measure.

The lawyers listed as representing Kawasme were not reachable for comment.

The court document said Kawasme had admitted to helping to organize the kidnapping - securing funding from the Hamas Islamist group in Gaza and purchasing weapons which he passed on to the two other suspects who carried out the attack.

Kawasme also helped to bury the bodies of the teenagers in a plot of land he had bought a few months earlier, it said.

Israel has named the other two suspects in the case as Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha.

Share this: tumblr

India's NDTV has released footage that appears to show three Palestinian militants setting up a rocket launching site in a crowded area of Gaza. The rarity of the video is remarkable, as militants in the enclave are notoriously covert in their launching operations.

NDTV journalist Sreenivasan Jain describes the scene from his neighboring balcony, narrating as blurred figures move in and out of the suspected rocket site.

Read more here.

Share this: tumblr

In an interview with HuffPost UK, former British Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi explained why she dramatically quit the government on Tuesday.

Speaking exclusively to The Huffington Post UK in her first interview since resigning on Tuesday morning, the Tory peer accused the coalition of failing to act as an "honest broker" in the Middle East and called for an immediate arms embargo against Israel.

"The British government can only play a constructive role in solving the Middle East crisis if it is an honest broker," the former Foreign Office minister said, "and at the moment I do not think it is."

Read the full story here.

Share this: tumblr

From the Associated Press:

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Jordan has circulated a revised U.N. resolution calling for a durable cease-fire in the Gaza war and condemning "all violence and hostilities against civilians."

Jordan's new U.N. Ambassador Dina Kawar said the draft resolution was submitted to the Security Council on Tuesday in a form that could be put to a vote.

"We are in consultation with all council members and we hope by the next day or two that we come with a product," she said.

The draft resolution calls for "the sustained reopening" of crossing points into Gaza and calls on the U.N. to establish a mechanism to monitor implementation of a cease-fire agreement.

It makes no mention of Hamas or its rocketing of Israel and is likely to face an uphill struggle winning U.S. approval.

Share this: tumblr

Agence France Presse reports on an initial assessment of the cost of damage to the Gaza Strip after weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Palestinian deputy economy minister Taysir Amro said "direct damages" will cost Gaza at least -6 billion in damage, and that the number will rise once further assessment of the full scale of damage is possible, according to the news agency.

Read the full story here.

Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr

From Reuters:

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said there was "clear evidence" of war crimes by Israel during its offensive in Gaza as he met International Criminal Court prosecutors on Tuesday to push for an investigation.

Malki visited The Hague shortly after Israel and the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza entered a 72-hour truce mediated by Egypt in an effort to pave the way for an extended ceasefire.

Malki said the Palestinian Authority wanted to give the ICC jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes by all sides and had discussed a timeline with prosecutors to join the court. He did not provide details.

Share this: tumblr
08/05/2014 6:35 AM EDT
Gaza, Post-Offensive
Share this: tumblr

Sayeeda Warsi, senior minister of state at the British Foreign Office, has tendered her resignation because she can "no longer support" the country's policy on Gaza, BBC News reported.

Warsi took to Twitter to confirm the news:

Click here for more.

Share this: tumblr
08/05/2014 2:23 AM EDT
72-Hour Cease-Fire Takes Effect
Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr

A spokesman for Hamas told Reuters that the Islamist group also agrees to a Egyptian ceasefire proposal.

"Hamas told Egypt a short while ago of its acceptance of a 72-hour period of calm," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

Share this: tumblr

An Israeli official says Israel has agreed to a temporary Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, Reuters reports.

Share this: tumblr

Egypt is urging senior Israeli and Palestinian delegations to join in talks on a permanent ceasefire for Gaza in the Egyptian capital, Reuters reports. Cairo also calls on Palestinians and Israelis to accept a proposal for a 72-hour ceasefire that would start tomorrow morning.

Share this: tumblr
08/04/2014 3:29 PM EDT
Ceasefire Agreement?

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that the Palestinian factions have agreed to an Egyptian proposal for a 72-hour ceasefire that would start tomorrow morning. While Palestinians officials have said Israel agreed to the truce as well, there is no official response from the Israeli government yet.

Read more here.


Share this: tumblr

Britain is investigating the possible death of one of its citizens in Gaza, Reuters reports on Monday. The country's Foreign Office said it had received reports a British national was killed in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday.

More from Reuters:

(Reuters) - Britain is "urgently" investigating reports that a British national was killed in Gaza over the weekend, a spokesman for the British government said on Monday.

Britain sought to establish the man's fate as a brief Israeli truce to allow aid to reach Palestinians ended amid accusations of strikes by both sides, while Jerusalem was rocked by two attacks that appeared to be a backlash against the war in Gaza.

Citing friends of the man, British media reported that an aid worker from Rochdale in northern England had been killed on Sunday during an Israeli strike on Rafah while he was delivering supplies for a hospital.

"We are aware of the reports of the death of a British national in Rafah and are urgently looking into them," a spokesman for the Foreign Office said.

Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr

The number of displaced Palestinians seeking shelter at UN facilities has topped 270,000.

Share this: tumblr
08/04/2014 11:48 AM EDT
Report: Israel Is Resuming Strikes

A spokesperson for the Israeli army reportedly told Agence France Presse that Israel is resuming its airstrikes in Gaza.

Share this: tumblr

In a statement released on Monday, Human Rights Watch accused Israeli troops of having opened fire and killing several fleeing civilians in the town of Khuza'a in southern Gaza. The international human rights group says the incidents took place between July 23 and July 25.

Human Rights Watch investigated several incidents between July 23 and 25 when, local residents said, Israeli forces opened fire on civilians trying to flee Khuza’a, but no Palestinian fighters were present at the time and no firefights were taking place.

On the morning of July 23, Israeli forces ordered a group of about 100 Palestinians in Khuza’a to leave a home in which they had gathered to take shelter, family members said. The first member to leave the house, Shahid al-Najjar, had his hands up but an Israeli soldier shot him in the jaw, seriously injuring him.

Israeli soldiers detained the men and boys over age 15 in an area close to the Gaza perimeter fence. Based on statements from witnesses and news reports, some were taken to Israel for questioning. Israeli forces released others that day, in small separate groups. As one group walked unarmed to Khan Younis, Israeli soldiers fired on them, killing one and wounding two others.

Read the briefing here.

Share this: tumblr

A gunmen opened fire near Jerusalem's Hebrew University, hitting a soldier in the stomach. It was the second incident in the Israeli capital this morning. Earlier, a man drove a construction vehicle into a bus.

Haaretz reports:

According to a preliminary investigation of the Mt. Scopus incident, a man dressed in black shot a 20-year-old soldier in the stomach, wounding him seriously, got on a motorcycle that was waiting for him and fled the scene. A security guard standing nearby shot at the suspect, but failed to hit him. Security forces are attempting to apprehend the attacker.

Read the full story here.

Share this: tumblr