Israel attacked at Human Rights Council for “terror”

The Human Rights Council convened this afternoon for an emergency session on the Israeli flotilla attack. Israel offered a legal explanation of the events that occurred and distributed a legal brief on the customary naval code and international law that justifies the blockade and intervention. At the Council, Arab states condemned the attack as a “heinous crime” and an act of “Israeli terror,” while the United States and UK refrained from assigning blame prior to an investigation. The meeting will continue on Wednesday, June 2. Here is a summary of the proceedings:

  • Israel provided explanation of the events of the attack, by which Israeli soldiers responded with force after being attacked with “knives, clubs and two Israeli soldiers were shot.” Ambassador Aharon Leshno Yaar offered a legal explanation justifying Israel’s actions. He argued that the blockade on Gaza is legal under customary naval codes because “at present military aid is being smuggled into Gaza and under international law, Israel has the right to protect its citizens against Hamas attacks.” He also said that international law “allows Israel to give a search of the vessels so that no benefit can be brought to the enemy.” Leshno Yaar stressed that the international community must remain focused on rebuilding peace talks and not allow the attack to derail progress. At the close, he said, “This council by its actions empowers Hamas and weakens Palestinian authority and offers no hope and no promise for the future.”
  • The Palestinian representative accused Israel of being “above the law,” and called for Israel to end the blockade on Gaza and demonstrate “respect of international law.” Ambassador Ibrahim Mohammad Khraishi demanded that “Israel should release all detained people and allow for the passage of humanitarian aid so that it can reach the Gaza strip immediately in an urgent manner.”
  • Turkey called the attack “totally unacceptable” and a “great breach of international law.”
  • Egypt for the Non-Aligned Movement also condemned the attack, calling it “another example of Israel’s total avoidance of international law and disregard for international norms.”
  • Spain for the EU refrained from assigning blame and expressed its “deepest concerns about the events that occurred in international waters.” The EU “supports an immediate and impartial inquiry.”
  • Pakistan for the Organization of the Islamic Conference called the event a “heinous crime” and an “unprovoked outrageous attack on the ships carrying humanitarian aid that resulted in the loss of life and injury of defenseless citizens.” The delegate also said that “Israel should no longer be allowed to release a reign of terror on Palestinians.”
  • Other member states went on to censure Israel and its supporters. Cuba said that “the international powers that provide Israel with a cloak to protect and shield it must answer to history.”
  • Qatar said that “Israel is condemned through this bloody and tragic act that has returned many humanitarian activists home as corpses” and furthermore “reject everything that the Israelis are claiming in regards to this situation.”
  • Yemen condemned Israel’s actions as showing “all forms of international terrorism and piracy” while Lebanon called the attack an act of “Israeli terror.”
  • Kuwait quoted a journalist who said his “six-year old son could do much better than this government” and that the “leadership of Israel made a perfectly unreasonable decision that was a decision of complete fools.”
  • The United States was “deeply disturbed by the violence involved aboard the Gaza bound ships” and are “looking into the facts.” Ambassador Eileen Donahoe warned other countries to “bear in mind the security concerns of Israel” with regards to ongoing attacks by Hamas. The United Kingdom urged the Council to remember the peace process and called for the creation of “two independent states.”

Summary prepared by Cindy D. Tan with reporting by Bethany Singer-Baefsky and Maile Miller.

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