The U.N. human rights chief has lashed out at Israel over recent “shocking” killings of the Palestinian people in the blockaded Gaza Strip, underlining the need for an independent investigation into the carnage.
In a video address to the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on Monday, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein voiced concerns about tensions in Gaza over the past few months, which have seen Israeli forces kill almost 140 Palestinians and injure 16,100 others.
Zeid, who heads the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also warned that the Gaza escalation has “the potential to generate threats to peace across a far broader region.”
He further called on all parties to the conflict to cooperate with the independent, international commission of inquiry into the Gaza events that his office is helping to establish.
“It is essential that the authorities cooperate with the future Commission to advance accountability for these killings, as well as all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law,” he said, adding that “although Israel has put in place a number of accountability mechanisms, there are serious concerns that these are not in compliance with the international standards of independence, impartiality, and effectiveness.”
Tensions have been running high along the fence separating Gaza from the Israeli-occupied territories since March 30, which marked the start of a series of protests, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.
The Gaza clashes reached their peak on May 14, the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe), which coincided this year with the U.S. embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.
Elsewhere in his briefing, Zeid said that it would be “vital to address the root causes of the recent demonstrations,” namely the “grossly inadequate living conditions” caused by Israel’s 11-year siege on Gaza.
The coastal sliver has also witnessed three Israeli wars since 2008.
Back in January, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump said that it would withhold $65 million of a $125 million aid installment to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
Zeid warned that the situation in Gaza may be “severely aggravated” in the coming months by the financial crisis facing UNRWA due to the U.S. aid cut.
Additionally, he denounced the Israeli parliament’s recent approval of a controversial law that declares Israel exclusively “the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
Zeid blasts ‘Israel for Jews’ law, settlements
Zeid said the legislation “anchors inherent discrimination against non-Jewish communities, most notably the Arab citizens of Israel and residents of occupied East Jerusalem [al-Quds]” and that it “could also further inflame tensions.”
The U.N. official further criticized Israel’s settlement construction activities in the occupied Palestinian lands and condemned the regime’s detention of hundreds of Palestinian children under the so-called administrative detention as a “fundamental human rights violation.”
“It should be absolutely clear that international law requires detention only be used for children as a last resort,” he said, stressing that whether for kids or adults, detention without trial “contravenes Israel’s obligations under international law.”
“An estimated 440 Palestinians are being held in ‘administrative detention,’ according to the latest figures,” Zeid noted. “Israel should immediately charge, or release, all of them.”
The administrative detention is a form of imprisonment without trial or charge that allows Israel to incarcerate Palestinians for up to six months.