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UN expert: Israel's seizure of aid boat "criminal"


A top United Nations official in a statement on Friday denounced Israel's seizure of a humanitarian aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip earlier this week. The UN official, Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk, denounced what he called the unlawful naval seizure by an Israeli gunboat on Tuesday. "This Israeli action implements its cruel blockade of the entire Palestinian population of Gaza, in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits any form of collective punishment directed at an occupied people," Falk said...


[55675]



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UN expert: Israel's seizure of aid boat "criminal"

Ma'an News

July 3, 2009


Bethlehem - Ma'an - A top United Nations official in a statement on Friday denounced Israel's seizure of a humanitarian aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip earlier this week.

The UN official, Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk, denounced what he called the unlawful naval seizure by an Israeli gunboat on Tuesday.

"This Israeli action implements its cruel blockade of the entire Palestinian population of Gaza, in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits any form of collective punishment directed at an occupied people," Falk said.

The seized vessel was carrying medicine and reconstruction material to the blockaded people of Gaza, and was carrying a Nobel laureate and former US congresswoman when it was seized and towed to the Israeli port city of Ashdod.

Falk pointed to a recent report on the impact on health resulting from the two-year blockade, issued by the Red Cross, stressing that Israeli actions not only restrict food, medicine, and fuel to bare subsistence levels but has, in unprecedented fashion, disallowed the entry to Gaza of building materials and spare parts needed for repairing some of the widespread damage caused by its attacks on the Strip last winter.

"Such a pattern of continuing blockade under these conditions amounts to such a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions as to constitute a continuing crime against humanity," the independent human rights expert added.

In a response to the official's remarks, Israeli Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Aharon Leshno-Yaar attacked Falk, saying he is "known for his bias against Israel and anti-Israel statements," and insisted that Israel is allowing aid into Gaza.

"Clearly the purpose of that ship was to create a buzz and serve as a propaganda vehicle against Israel," he reportedly added, according to Reuters.

The boat in question had been inspected in response to Israeli demands before departure by the port authorities in Cyprus to determine whether there were weapons on board. None were found, and Israeli authorities were so informed, according to the UN official and the Free Gaza Movement, which chartered the vessel.

Nonetheless, the 21 peace activists on the boat were arrested, held in captivity, and have been charged with "illegal entry" to Israel even though they insisted they had no intention of going to Israel. The group included an Irish winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Mairead Maguire, and a former US congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney.

Meanwhile, Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister Micheßl Martin on Friday called for the swift release of two Irish nationals detained from the ship, including the Nobel Peace Prize winner and a second man identified as Derek Graham.

In a statement received by the Free Gaza Movement, Martin said his ministry had been closely following the situation and was in ongoing contact with Israeli authorities, who had assured him that the nationals were being treated well.

"My immediate priority is ensuring the safety and welfare of Ms Maguire and Mr Graham and securing their release as soon as possible," Martin said. "I would again renew my call for the release of Ms Maguire and Mr Graham as well as the other nineteen passengers detained on The Spirit of Humanity."

"I would also call upon the Israeli Government to ensure that the humanitarian supplies for the people of Gaza being transported on The Spirit of Humanity are made available as soon as possible to the Palestinian authorities for distribution," he added.

The minister went on to say that the current Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was "completely unacceptable" and called for all border crossings into the coastal salient to be opened to humanitarian and commercial traffic.

Also on Friday, five Bahraini citizens, including one Al-Jazeera reporter, were deported, which was two days after two other Palestinian citizens of Israel were released without charges from the Ashdod jail facility.






:: Article nr. 55675 sent on 04-jul-2009 05:58 ECT

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Link: www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=38993



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