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More UN officials voice concern at Israel's declaration of Gaza as 'hostile territory'

21 September 2007 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has voiced grave concern over Israel’s decision to declare the Gaza Strip a “hostile territory” and to announce military action, additional restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from the area, and reductions in the supply of fuel and electricity.

“The implementation of such measures would impose an unbearable burden on the civilian population of Gaza, which has already paid a heavy price from daily violence, isolation and deprivation,” Ms. Arbour said in a statement released last night.

She condemned once again the indiscriminate firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel and urged Israel to exercise restraint, recalling that it has the obligation under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect its population without employing disproportionate means. She also recalled that international law prohibits reprisals and collective punishment.

Ms. Arbour’s statement was the latest expression of concern by UN officials. On Wednesday, when the Israel decision was announced, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the 1.4 million people in Gaza, including the old, the young and the sick, who are already suffering from the impact of prolonged closure, should not be punished for the unacceptable actions of militants and extremists.

Yesterday, the Bureau of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People voiced “great alarm” and called on Israel to reverse the move.

“We consider this decision to be a violation of international law, including international humanitarian law, and yet another form of collective punishment of the Palestinian people, which, if implemented, is bound to substantially worsen the already deplorable living conditions of the civilian population in the occupied Gaza Strip,” it said in a statement.

It reiterated its position condemning “the killing of innocent civilians by both sides, including Israeli military operations and the firing of rockets and mortar rounds by Palestinian groups. Such attacks by both sides must be stopped immediately, and those responsible must be brought to justice,” it added.

It warned that the decision “may considerably complicate current efforts of the international community to revitalize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and prevent the Palestinian Authority from promoting and marshalling public support for dialogue towards peace. Nobody, including the Israeli people, will benefit from such a scenario,” it added.



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