UN to Hold Emergency Special Session on Palestine

UNITED NATIONS – The 189-member General Assembly, the highest policy making body at the United Nations, will hold an emergency special session Wednesday to discuss the continuing violence in the West Bank and Gaza.

UNITED NATIONS – The 189-member General Assembly, the highest policy making body at the United Nations, will hold an emergency special session Wednesday to discuss the continuing violence in the West Bank and Gaza.

The move for a special session has been prompted primarily by US threats to block all attempts to take the issue – for a second time in less than two weeks – to the 15-member Security Council.

The United States abstained on a resolution adopted by the Security Council on Oct. 7 that stressed the importance of establishing a mechanism ”for a speedy and objective inquiry” into the violence which has claimed the lives of over 100 Palestinians over a three-week period.

US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said last week that in the unlikely event that the Security Council agrees to debate the issue a second time, Washington will veto any resolution on the subject.

”We have made this abundantly clear to our friends and colleagues in the Security Council,” he warned.

The discussion on Israeli-occupied territories – which originated with the 10th emergency Special Session of the General Assembly in 1997 – has continued through February 1999. Since the sessions have never been adjourned – to ensure that the issue remains on the agenda – they have been resumed on four different occasions.

On Wednesday, the emergency Special Session will be resumed for the fifth time to discuss once again ”the illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.

A resolution drafted by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations – and backed by the 114-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) – is expected to be adopted by an overwhelming majority of member states, probably before Friday.

The speculation is that the only opposition to the draft resolution may come from the United States and Israel. On Tuesday, Holbrooke was quoted as saying that the General Assembly was an ineffective body and its decisions would not have a bearing on the crisis.

But a UN spokesman told IPS that it was surprising that Holbrooke should have made those comments particularly at a time when he is pleading with the same Assembly to approve a reduction in US assessments for the UN’s regular and peacekeeping budgets.

The draft resolution condemns the ”acts of violence and the excessive use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians resulting in injury and loss of human life”.

The Assembly will also demand the immediate cessation of violence arguing that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, ”are illegal and an obstacle to peace”.

The resolution also ”strongly supports the establishment of a mechanism of inquiry” to probe the violence.

On Tuesday, at a summit meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea port of Sharm el-Sheikh, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to a cease-fire and the appointment of a commission to investigate the violence. But the United States, not the United Nations, will play a key role in setting up this proposed commission.

Among the participants in the summit were US President Bill Clinton and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Meanwhile, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) released Tuesday the results of a week-long investigation that condemns Israeli police and security forces for ”a pattern of using excessive, lethal force in clashes with demonstrators over the past two weeks”.

In a report released here, HRW called on both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities to take urgent steps to stop their own civilians from using lethal force against other civilians – an increasingly serious problem.

”Civilians should not be dying in this conflict,” Hanny Megally of HRW said Tuesday. ”The Israelis should use lethal force only when it is strictly unavoidable to protect lives, and both sides need to rein in anyone attacking or endangering civilians.”

Megally said the results of HRW’s investigations showed a compelling need for a credible and independent investigation into serious human rights violations in these clashes.

He said that under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs military occupations, Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, are internationally protected persons, and signatory states have an obligation to respect and ensure respect for rights and guarantees of the Convention.

Author: Thalif Deen

News Service: Inter Press Services

URL: http://www.link.no/IPS/eng/serv/WD.html

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