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Fears grow for Gazans as aid groups halt work over deadly Israeli strike

UN rights council to consider call for Israel arms sales halt

By News Desk

April 4, 2024 08:40 AM


Fears grow for Gazans as aid groups halt work over deadly Israeli strike

WCK named the workers killed in Israeli attack: (from top left) Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, Laizawmi ‘Zomi’ Frankcom, Darnian Sobol, Jacob Flinkinger, John Chapman, James ‘Jim’ Henderson and James Kirby.

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Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will be wondering how they are going to feed their families after World Central Kitchen (WCK) paused its operations in response to the killing of seven of its aid workers in an Israeli air strike. Another US charity it works with, Anera, has also suspended work because of the escalating risks faced by its local staff and their families.

Together, they were serving two million meals a week across the Palestinian territory, where the UN has warned that an estimated 1.1 million people - half the population - are facing catastrophic hunger because of Israeli restrictions on aid deliveries.

WCK's decision to pause its work also led to the "freezing" of a maritime aid corridor from Cyprus, which the charity helped set up last month to increase the trickle of aid getting into the north of Gaza and avert a looming famine.

The WCK convoy was hit on Monday night as it travelled south along the Israeli-designated coastal aid route, just after they had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of food from a barge at a warehouse in Deir al-Balah. That barge was part of a four-vessel flotilla that sailed back to Cyprus with 240 tonnes of supplies that could not be brought ashore in the wake of the strike.

The Norwegian Refugee Council warned that "what happened to World Central Kitchen threatens the entire aid system" and had left it "on the brink".

WCK accused the Israeli military of a "targeted attack" on vehicles clearly marked with the charity's logo and whose movements had been co-ordinated with Israel authorities. The victims were British, Polish, Australian and Palestinian, and also included a dual US-Canadian citizen.

The military's chief of staff, Lt Gen Herzi Halevi, described the strike as a "grave mistake" that had followed "misidentification at night".

He also vowed to take "immediate action" to ensure that more was done to protect aid workers, including the immediate establishment of a new "humanitarian command centre" to improve co-ordination. "Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the people of Gaza," he stressed.

However, aid groups say they are not sure such promises will lead to meaningful changes. They also assert that this was not an isolated incident, with 196 Palestinian aid workers reportedly killed since the war began in October.

Jan Egeland, the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council and a former UN humanitarian chief, told the BBC that WCK was "among those who have the closest co-operation with the Israelis", in terms of sharing information about their workers' locations and planned movements.

Before the strike, WCK was playing an increasingly prominent and important role in Gaza, with 400 Palestinian staff and 3,000 people working indirectly in its 68 community kitchens and distribution system across the territory.

WCK provided 12% of the 193,000 tonnes of aid from international organisations that had reached Gaza as of Tuesday, according to data from Cogat, the Israeli defence ministry body tasked with co-ordinating deliveries. However, UN agencies were responsible for 80% of the total.

UN rights council to consider call for Israel arms sales halt

The UN Human Rights Council on Friday is set to consider a draft resolution calling for a cessation of arms sales to Israel, nearly six months into the war in Gaza.

If the text is adopted, it would mark the first time that the United Nations' top rights body has taken a position on the bloodiest-ever Gaza war.

The draft resolution circulated on Wednesday condemns the "use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in Gaza" and demands Israel "uphold its legal responsibility to prevent genocide".

The draft resolution was brought forward by Pakistan on behalf of 55 of the 56 UN member states in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) -- the exception being Albania.

The text is co-sponsored by Bolivia, Cuba and the Palestinian mission in Geneva.

- 'Collective punishment' -

The draft demands Israel end its occupation of Palestinian territory and "immediately lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip and all other forms of collective punishment".

It "calls upon all states to cease the sale, transfer and diversion of arms, munitions and other military equipment to Israel... in order to prevent further violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights".

The draft "condemns the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects by Israel in populated areas in Gaza" and the use of artificial intelligence "to aid military decision-making that may contribute to the commission of international crimes".

It calls on states to ensure that UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, receives sufficient funding and demands Israel stop expanding settlements in Palestinian territories.

It also warns against conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and calls for an immediate ceasefire and emergency humanitarian access.

Last week, the UN Security Council in New York passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire -- thanks to an abstention from Washington, Israel's closest ally. However, it has had no impact on the ground.

- Hamas not named -

The war erupted with Hamas's October 7 attack, which resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Palestinian militants also seized around 250 hostages. Israel believes about 130 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

Israel's retaliatory campaign has killed at least 32,900 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

The draft resolution does not name Hamas, but it does condemn the firing of rockets against Israeli civilian areas and demands "the immediate release of all remaining hostages".

There are 47 countries serving on the Human Rights Council -- among them 18 states that brought forward the draft resolution.

Twenty-four votes are needed for an outright majority, but resolutions can pass with fewer votes due to abstentions.

The council will discuss whether to adopt the draft resolution on Friday, alongside three others concerning Israeli settlements, the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

Israel has long accused the Human Rights Council of being biased against it.

 

With input from AFP

 


News Desk


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