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UN rights chief urges lowering Gaza tensions


Nepalnews
2021 May 15, 20:12, BERLIN
People hold placards and Palestinian flags as they march in solidarity with the Palestinian people amid the ongoing conflict with Israel, during a demonstration in London, Saturday, May 15, 2021.(AP Photo)

The United Nations’ human rights chief is urging all in what has developed into a battle between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers to lower tensions, and faulted actions by both sides.

Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement issued in Geneva on Saturday that “rather than seeking to calm tensions, inflammatory rhetoric from leaders on all sides appears to be seeking to excite tensions rather than to calm them.”

Bachelet’s statement was issued on Saturday, shortly before an Israeli airstrike destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets.

In the statement, Bachelet “warned that the firing of large numbers of indiscriminate rockets by Palestinian armed groups into Israel, including densely populated areas, in clear violation of international humanitarian law, amounts to war crimes.”

There also are concerns that some attacks by the Israeli military in Gaza “have targeted civilian objects that, under international humanitarian law, do not meet the requirements to be considered as military objectives.”

It added that “the failure to adhere to the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of military operations amounts to a serious violation of international humanitarian law and may constitute war crimes.”

Iran’s foreign minister has called off a planned visit to his Austrian counterpart in Vienna. The decision came after Austria’s chancellery and foreign ministry flew the Israeli flag as a signal of solidarity in Israel’s conflict with the militant Hamas group.

Austrian daily Die Presse reported Saturday that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was due to meet Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg on Saturday morning. But he called off the trip over the Austrian leaders’ decision to fly the Israeli flag on Friday.

The Austria Press Agency said Schallenberg’s spokeswoman, Claudia Tuertscher, confirmed the report. She said: “We regret this.”

Vienna has been hosting negotiations in recent weeks aimed at bringing the United States back into the 2015 nuclear deal aimed at allaying concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China are still parties to that agreement.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, tweeted on Friday that Austria “so far been a great host for negotiations” but it was “shocking & painful to see flag of the occupying regime, that brutally killed tens of innocent civilians, inc many children in just few days, over govt offices in Vienna.”

Saudi Arabia has called for foreign ministers of the world’s largest body of Muslim nations to hold a meeting Sunday. The gathering is to discuss Israeli acts of violence against Palestinians and the Israeli police’s use of force against protesters at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The kingdom will host the virtual summit, gathering ministers of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation “to discuss the Israeli aggression in the Palestinian territory,” particularly acts of violence in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the body said Saturday.

The Saudi-headquartered OIC includes countries Iran, Turkey, Indonesia and a range of Muslim majority nations.

The sanctity of Al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, is a sensitive and emotive issue for Muslims around the world. The OIC was formed 51 years ago in response to a Jewish extremist arson attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in east Jerusalem.

The hilltop on which the mosque stands is also sacred to Jews, who revere it as the Temple Mount because it was the site of the biblical temples. Some Jews and evangelical Christians support building a new Jewish temple on the site, an idea that Muslims find alarming because they fear it would lead to the mosque being partitioned or demolished.

Palestinians have begun gathering across the occupied West Bank to mark the anniversary of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees from what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation.

Nakba Day, Arabic for “catastrophe,” comes amid widespread Jewish-Arab violence in Israel and heavy fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza. The main event Saturday was held in West Bank city of Ramallah, where the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority is headquartered.

On Friday, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank held some of the largest protests in years and clashed with Israeli forces, who shot and killed 11 people, including a Palestinian who tried to stab a soldier at a military position.

Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes during the 1948 war. Today, they and their descendants number around 5.7 million and mostly reside in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

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