Following the violent clashes along the Gaza border, the UN Human Rights Council met on Friday to discuss the situation of the Palestinians in the coastal enclave. At the beginning of the special session, the UN human rights chief slammed Israel and its response to the massive protests.

Gaza border protest

Gaza border protest Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

The UN Human Rights Council convened on Friday for a special session on the situation of the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Commenting on this week’s deadly clashes along the Israel-Gaza border, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said Israel’s response to the massive protests was “wholly disproportionate.” He also claimed that the high Palestinian death toll was the result of “the unlawful use of force by an occupying power and may also constitute willful killings, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

According to the senior UN official, many of the Palestinians who were shot by Israeli troops were unarmed. “Although some of the demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, used slingshots to throw stones, flew burning kites into Israel and attempted to use wire-cutters against the two fences between Gaza and Israel, these actions alone do not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force,” he added.

Al-Hussein went on to claim that Israel is to blame for the dire situation in Gaza. “Israel, as an occupying power under international law, is obligated to protect the population of Gaza and ensure their welfare. But they are, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death; deprived of dignity; dehumanized by the Israeli authorities to such a point it appears officials do not even consider that these men and women have a right, as well as every reason, to protest,” he stated.

The Israeli representative in the room countered al-Hussein’s remarks by saying that Israel is not occupying Gaza and blaming Hamas for exploiting the humanitarian crisis in Gaza to advance its anti-Israel and terrorist agenda. The Palestinian Authority’s representative urged the international community to act to improve the situation in Gaza.