The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967 has come out with updated reports on the situation in the region in the last months. In fact, he has produced two separate reports: the first report is a combined report by a number of different UN Rapporteurs (inc. the Special Rapporteur on the right to an attainable standard of physical and mental health, on an adequate standard of living, on violence against women, on the right to food and on the right to education, on the right to non-discrimination and on extrajudicial executions) on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories particularly post the offensive conducted by Israel in the Gaza Strip. The second report, submitted exclusively by Special Rapporteur Falk focuses on Israel’s misconduct throughout the 22 day long offensive on Gaza.
The first report, which focuses on the situation in the “occupied Gaza Strip” before and after the offensive, notes that even the attacks people of the Gaza Strip were living in a permanent urban condition that prevented them from having access to the acceptable minimal standards of adequate housing. In this regard, whilst reconstruction is urgently needed, Israel continues to prevent the required construction materials from entering the Strip obstructing the work of humanitarian personnel namely through restrictions on the distribution of humanitarian aid. The report commences by examining the applicable normative frameworks, with special attention to the rules concerning the conduct of hostilities. Finally, annexed to the report is a brief special report on Gaza and southern Israel prepared by the Special Rapporteur of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict.
The Rapporteurs’ submissions conclude with a set of recommendations amongst which are: calling for action from the international community; demanding the establishment of accountability and redress mechanisms for the prima facie concerns as to violations of the principles of IHL where Israel was seen to “intentionally target civilians and civilian objects connected to Hamas but not taking direct part in hostilities” alongside a long list of accusations; calling upon Israel to fulfilled its international legal obligations.
The second report places an emphasis on whether Israel’s use of force during the war on Gaza, December 2008-January 2009, was disproportionate in relation to Palestinian threats. Falk emphasizes what is often neglected, i.e. the pre-existing siege of the Gaza Strip and its status as occupied territory before, during and after the war. In light of the latter, the gravity of Israel’s criminality for disallowing civilians in Gaza to have an option to leave the war zone to become refugees is highlighted.
Amongst the regurgitated issues there are also a number of points from within the report that merit being highlighted. Falk emphasizes that Israel is obliged to cooperate with the investigation authorized by the UN in accordance with Article 56 of the UN Charter (para. 6 of the report). He further notes the inherent illegality of the launching of the attacks since under the conditions that existed in Gaza it was not possible to effectively distinguish between military targets and the civilian population (para. 7). Falk also considers the legality of the use of force by Israel in the initial attacks initiating the war through the lens of diplomacy and whilst noting the state’s obligation to try and resolve an international dispute through diplomatic remedies and peaceful alternatives before resorting to the use of force (para. 11).