On 7 August 2014 The ESCWA Staff Council convened in front of the United Nations House in Beirut a stand to protest the deaths of innocent civilians and of fellow staff members in Gaza. The UN flag flew at half mast in front of the UN House.
ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf attended the event and delivered a statement commending the initiative of the Federations of UN Staff Unions in condemning the latest aggression on the Gaza Strip, in particular the egregious targeting of UN schools and safe havens. She added that the Israeli military offensive has claimed nearly 2,000 lives. The vast majority of them, including UNRWA colleagues, were innocent civilians.
Khalaf addressed deep sympathies to the families of UN colleagues in Gaza, who have displayed exemplary courage and devotion in upholding the values of the United Nations and human rights in the face of grave, and ultimately fatal, danger. She also expressed sympathy with the countless innocent victims of this violence, emphasizing the necessity not only of ending the ongoing blockade but also of addressing the root cause of this conflict: the long-standing occupation of Palestine.
Khalaf expressed unrelenting commitment to the ideals of the United Nations, reaffirming the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, as enshrined in international law. She added that these conditions, including a sovereign and independent Palestinian State, are imperative for lasting peace and stability in the region.
This solidarity stand of the ESCWA Staff Council in Beirut, was held in parallel with solidarity stands of UN Staff Councils in the organization's Geneva and New York headquarters. Thousands of UN Common System staff members have watched with horror the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Gaza. Amid the deaths of innocent civilians on all sides of the conflict have been those of 11 colleagues, killed while attending to their work on UN premises. These are premises whose sanctity foreseen under international law has been violated, which lead to the destruction of several UNRWA schools.
While the United Nations Secretary-General considered these acts against UN premises and staff as violations of international law, Human Rights High Commissioner, Navi Pillay has said that they may "amount to war crimes."
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