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22 Oct, 2022 04:56

UN urges ICJ to address Palestine occupation

A UN-led commission said Israel’s decades-long presence on Palestinian lands is likely illegal under international law
UN urges ICJ to address Palestine occupation

The United Nations has called on its highest court to review the “legal consequences” of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, insisting the Palestinian territories may not be deprived of “statehood or sovereignty” by any occupying power.

A three-member UN commission tapped to probe the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories issued its first report on Thursday, finding “reasonable grounds” to conclude that Israel’s occupation is “unlawful under international law due to its permanence and the Israeli government’s de-facto annexation policies” on Arab lands.

“The actions of Israeli governments reviewed in our report constitute an illegal occupation and annexation regime that must be addressed,” commissioner Chris Sidoti said in a statement, adding: “The international system and individual states must act and uphold their obligations under international law. That must begin at this session of the General Assembly with a referral to the International Court of Justice.”

The commission was created last year after 11 days of fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants, to investigate “all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law” in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and within Israeli territory proper.

The new 28-page report stressed that the law of occupation must be “temporary” and only exist during wartime, yet noted that many Palestinians now live under permanent martial law. Arguing that Palestinians may not be perpetually deprived of statehood or sovereignty, the commission asked the ICJ for an “urgent advisory opinion… on the legal consequences of Israel’s continued refusal to end its occupation.”

Though other UN bodies and international organizations have repeatedly declared the occupation at odds with international law in the past, the ICJ has issued only one advisory opinion on Israel since 2004, when it ruled that portions of Israel’s ‘security barrier’ walling off Gaza and the West Bank were illegal, as they crossed over defacto borders set in 1967. Such advisory opinions are not binding, however, and it remains unclear what action, if any, the ICJ will take following the new UN report.

The West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza were occupied by Israeli forces following the Six Day War in 1967. Though Israel evacuated its soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005 – keeping it under tight blockade ever since – settlements have continued to grow in the other territories, seeing hundreds of Jewish communities built on land taken from Arab owners. Some 465,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank, as well as more than 200,000 in occupied East Jerusalem, according to data compiled by Peace Now and B'Tselem.