On 16 July 2014, ESCWA issued the following press release:
On the occasion of delivering a Secretary-General report in the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) today condemned the targeting of civilian structures and the killing of civilians in the ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip. The Commission expressed its grave concern vis-à-vis this escalation, specifically the violations of international humanitarian law, in addition to the economic, social and humanitarian consequences which exacerbate the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. This follows 7 years of a quasi-complete blockade imposed on 1.7 million Palestinians. This embargo amounts to collective punishment, a practice prohibited by international laws and treaties, including the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Commission also noted that the UN Security Council has issued at least 18 resolutions calling on Israel to comply with the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The excessive use of force, the targeting and the demolition of civilian homes by the Israeli army constitute acts of collective punishment, entailing civilian casualties. These practices fit into a prevailing trend in the policies of the Israeli authorities, whose security, military personnel, and settlers, enjoy de facto impunity from prosecution.
The Secretary-General's report highlights the repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It reveals a number of alarming trends and patterns discernable within the practices of the occupation authorities, including policies of discrimination, segregation and collective punishment. The report notes that the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) censured Israel over its policies of segregation and apartheid, which gravely affect the Palestinian population.
According to the report, while it is practically impossible for Palestinians to obtain a building permit in Area "C", which constitutes 60 per cent of the West Bank, Israeli authorities encourage and support settlement expansion in the same area. The report further notes that, whereas settler violence against Palestinians and their property is routinely ignored, Palestinians who commit acts of violence are promptly arrested and prosecuted. For example, "stone throwing" is a crime punishable by up to 20 years of incarceration for a Palestinian. In addition, discrimination is practiced at the level of water distribution and the use of roads: 70 kilometers of roads in the Occupied Territories are reserved for exclusive Israeli use.
In this context, ESCWA calls for the implementation of all relevant UN resolutions and the respect of international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians. International law states that civilians must be protected and prohibits acts of collective punishment. ESCWA further calls for an end to the blockade against the Gaza Strip, in line with UN resolutions.
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