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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Falk: sealing Gaza: new sinister war crime

Richard FalkA couple of days old but still important (linked to from someone's blog somewhere sorry can't recall):

Israel's refusal to allow civilians any exit route from Gaza as its defence forces rained bombs down on schools and houses appears unprecedented in modern warfare, a United Nations investigator has said.

Richard Falk, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, described the sealing off of the Gaza Strip in order to ensure that nobody could flee it as 'a distinct, new and sinister war crime.'

'For the first time in a military operation, the civilian population as a whole has been locked into a war zone,' he told a meeting of the European Parliament by telephone. 'No children, women, sick people or disabled people were allowed to leave. For the first time, the option of becoming a refugee has been withheld.'

Arguing that the conduct of the three-week offensive against Gaza could amount to a 'horrible abuse of Israel's role as the occupying power,' he noted that international law - particularly the 1949 Geneva convention - obliges the occupier to provide adequate food and medical facilities to the population it seeks to control. The 18-month blockade which preceded Operation Cast Lead was 'unlawful', he added.

Aged 78, Falk boasts a lengthy record as an academic, and as a campaigner for disarmament and human rights and on environmental issues. Yet his outspoken defence of Palestinian civilians has made him something of a persona non grata for the Israeli government. Last year it refused to allow him to enter the occupied territories, accusing him of an anti-Israel bias.

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