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Bachelet slams Israel’s practices in Gaza, occupied territory

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has expressed her dismay and regret at Israel’s “immediate dismissal” of a recent UN report about its security forces killing protesters in Gaza “without addressing any of the very serious issues raised.”

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday, Bachelet condemned Israel for its blockade of Gaza, saying such measure had left “more than 70 percent of Gazans dependent on humanitarian assistance, primarily food.”

“In the occupied Palestinian territory, the devastating impact of the occupation on economic and social rights is closely interlinked with violations of civil and political rights. In Gaza, the Israeli blockade – now in its 12th year – has led to negative economic growth; environmental degradation; over 50% unemployment, even higher for youth; and the reliance of more than 70% of people on humanitarian assistance, primarily food. It could be said that the major product of Gaza’s economy is despair,” the UN official said.

“The end of this month will mark one year since the start of demonstrations which – as the Council’s Commission of Inquiry reported – have been met with deadly, disproportionate force by the Israeli Security Forces, leading to a very high toll of killings and injuries. I was disappointed to see the immediate dismissal of that report by Israel, without addressing any of the very serious issues raised,” she underlined.

She called for “restraint” on all sides ahead of the 30 March anniversary of the start of weekly protests by Palestinians to demand the right of return to their ancestral lands.

She also addressed concerns raised by Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank, which she said “affect all aspects of Palestinians’ daily lives, including significant negative impact on freedom of movement and access to work, education and healthcare”.

“Imposing economic hardship on Palestinians does not make Israelis safer,” she stressed.