UN rights experts warn against arms exports to Israel

A statement released Feb. 23 by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on behalf of United Nations rights experts warns countries against the transfer of war material to Israel, as such transfers could constitute violations of international humanitarian law if weapons are used contrary to the Geneva Conventions. The statement asserts that "states must accordingly refrain from transferring any weapon or ammunition—or parts for them—if it is expected, given the facts and past patterns of behaviour, that they would be used to violate international law."

The statement charges that Israel has repeatedly violated the Geneva Conventions and international law, concluding that there is a "clear risk" that Israel may use any arms imported to violate the convention. The statement points out the need for a potential arms embargo, and invokes the recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) rulings in January and February, which found that there is a "plausible risk of genocide" in Gaza.

Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 sets out a negative and positive obligation on states to "neither encourage, nor aid or assist in violations of the Conventions by Parties to a conflict… [T]hey must do everything reasonably in their power to prevent and bring such violations to an end."

The statement also references European Union treaties and law that may prohibit arms export to Israel, such as the Arms Trade TreatyEU arms export control law states: "Member States are determined to prevent the export of military technology and equipment which might be used for internal repression or international aggression or contribute to regional instability."

The death toll in Gaza since the start of Israel's offensive currently stands at an estimated 29,000 people, with growing concern about a potential ground invasion of Rafah, where two-thirds of the Strip's population is currently taking refuge.

From Jurist, Feb. 24. Used with permission.

See our last report on genocide accusations against Israel.

UN calls for accountability for international law violations

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report on Feb. 23 calling for accountability for numerous apparent violations of international law over the course of the Israel-Palestine conflict and ongoing occupation. The report said that the ongoing rights violations "cannot be permitted to continue," and called for immediate compliance with mechanisms of international law, including the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The report was submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 52/3, which requested a report on the "human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice." The report covers the period from Nov. 1, 2022 to Oct. 31, 2023.

The report stated:

For over 56 years, the Occupied Palestinian Territory–the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza–has remained under occupation by Israel, affecting all rights of Palestinians, including the right to self-determination. The human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory drastically worsened during the reporting period. There was an escalation of the use of lethal force in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and May 2023 also saw an escalation of hostilities in Gaza.

The report expressed concern about human rights violations committed by both parties, including the Oct. 7 attacks on Israeli civilians orchestrated by the al Qassam Brigades and Saraya al Quds Brigades, armed wings of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, respectivey. It stated that these armed groups committed a series of war crimes, including: "attacks directed against civilians, willful killing and mistreatment of civilians, wanton destruction of civilian objects, and taking of hostages." It noted accounts of these groups committing other serious crimes, including rape, sexual assault and torture.

It also found that Israel has committed war crimes and violations of international law, including unlawful killings, "wanton destruction of civilian property," collective punishment, punitive sieges, strikes on civilian infrastructure, "deprivation of essential services" such as water, humanitarian aid and fuel, disruption of telecommunications, and forced displacement.

The human rights situation in the West Bank prior to Oct. 7 was already "grave" and  deteriorating, exacerbated by Israel's "settler violence to facilitate de facto annexation," as well as "increased use of military tactics and weapons in law enforcement operations."

During the reporting period, Israeli security forces killed 338 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 251 men, three women, and 84 children. At the height of the escalation between Oct. 7 and 31, 2023, following Hamas' attacks and Israel's response, an estimated 1,200 Israelis were killed in Israel and at least 8,525 Palestinians were killed in Gaza.

Btween Nov. 1, 2022 and Oct. 7, 2023, 30 Israelis were killed in the West Bank, and one Israeli woman was killed in Israel "by a rocket launched from Gaza."

In a press release, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said: "The entrenched impunity reported by our Office for decades cannot be permitted to continue. There must be accountability on all sides for violations seen over 56 years of occupation and the 16 years of blockade of Gaza, and up to today." He added: "Justice is a pre-requisite for ending cycles of violence and for Palestinians and Israelis to be able to take meaningful steps towards peace."

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 prohibit torture, cruel treatment, taking of hostages, degrading treatment, extrajudicial killings, and harm to any civilians in times of war and armed conflict. (Jurist)

Palestinian Authority government submits resignation

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh of the Palestinian Authority tendered the resignation of his cabinet Feb. 26. The decision follows diplomatic efforts involving the United States and Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, to persuade the Authority to reform itself in a way that as to win Israeli acquiescence in its taking over administration of Gaza after the war there ends. (NYT)

US blocks condemnation of Gaza massacre at Security Council

The United States has blocked Algeria's request to the UN Security Council demanding the body issue a statement blaming the Israeli army for the killing of over 100 Palestinians in northern Gaza on Feb. 29. The US was the only country out of 15 to not back Algeria's statement on the massacre. (TNA)

Thousands of people were waiting for food and aid supplies on al-Rashid Street, outside Gaza City, when Israeli forces opened fire on the crowd causing mass casualties and panic. (TNA) The IDF contends most of the victims were killed in a "stampede" as Palestinians swarmed an aid convoy, and asserted that fewer than 10 of the casualties were a result of Israeli fire. (ToI)

The US has repeatedly used its veto on the Security Council to protect Israel since the current crisis began in October. 

Nicaragua launches ICJ proceedings against Germany

Nicaragua filed an official application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on March 1 instituting proceedings against Germany. Nicaragua claimed that Germany has been complicit in the genocide of Palestinians by Israel in Gaza. (Jurist)

Lawsuit filed in Canada over military exports to Israel

A group of Palestinian Canadians filed a lawsuit on March 5 against Canada government in Canadian Federal Court, challenging the continued export of military goods and technology to Israel. Led by a coalition of Canadian and Palestinian applicants, including Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR) and Al-Haq-Law in the Service of Man, the legal proceedings aim to halt arms exports to Israel, claiming violations of Canadian and international law. (Jurist)

Lawsuit filed in Denmark over military exports to Israel

Amnesty International announced March 12 that it has joined Oxfam Denmark, Action Aid Denmark and Palestinian rights group Al-Haq in suing Denmark's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and national police to stop the country from exporting military equipment and weapons to Israel. Secretary general of Action Aid Denmark Tim Whyte said that the country "should not be sending weapons to Israel when there is a reasonable suspicion that [Israel] is committing war crimes in Gaza."  (Jurist)

Canada to halt arms sales to Israel

Canada will halt future arms sales to Israel following a non-binding vote in the house of commons. The motion–which passed 204-117 with the support of Liberals, Bloc Québécois and the Green party–also called on Canada to work "towards the establishment of the state of Palestine." (The Guardian)