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UN human rights body calls for halt to weapons shipments to Israel

Meirav Eilon Shahr, ambassador of the Permanent Representative Mission of the Israel to the UN, observes the vote on a resolution regarding the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, during the 55th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on Friday.
Salvatore Di Nofi
/
AP
Meirav Eilon Shahr, ambassador of the Permanent Representative Mission of the Israel to the UN, observes the vote on a resolution regarding the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, during the 55th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on Friday.

GENEVA — The U.N.'s top human rights body called on countries to stop selling or shipping weapons to Israel in a resolution passed Friday that aims to help prevent rights violations against Palestinians amid Israel's blistering military campaign in Gaza.

The 47-member-country Human Rights Council voted 28-6 in favor of the resolution, with 13 abstentions.

The sweeping measure takes aim at an array of Israeli actions such as impeding access to water and limiting shipments of humanitarian aid into Palestinian areas. It also calls on U.N.-backed independent investigators to report on shipments of weapons, munitions and "dual use" items — that have both civilian and military applications — that could be used by Israel against Palestinians.

While non-binding, the resolution is bound to raise international pressure on Israel as a sign of widespread concern about its military campaign in Gaza, begun in response to the attacks in Israel by armed militants on Oct. 7, that has led to the killings of nearly 33,000 Palestinians.

Western countries were divided. The U.S. and Germany opposed the resolution, France and Japan abstained, while Belgium, Finland and Luxembourg voted in favor.

Sustained applause interrupted the council president as he read the results. Israel's ambassador said she would not attend the rest of the day's session and called the resolution a "stain on the Human Rights Council and the United Nations as a whole."

"This council has long abandoned the Israeli people and long defended Hamas," Meirav Eilon Shahar said of the militant group behind the attacks. "It has become a shield for terrorists. It has turned a blind eye to any acts of violence against Israelis and Jews."

She said she was especially disappointed at European countries that backed the measure — calling out Belgium, Luxembourg and Finland by name — for supporting a resolution that did not condemn Hamas.

"I don't know if any of you counted, but Israel appears in the resolution 59 times — 59 times," she told reporters afterward. "Hamas does not appear at all."

Before the vote, the Palestinian ambassador in Geneva, Ibrahim Khraishi, decried the "humanitarian disaster" in Gaza, and appealed to envoys "to wake and stop this genocide ... televised live across the world, killing thousands of innocent Palestinian people."

Speaking in Arabic, Khraishi alluded to the genocide of Jews in Europe last century, saying: "We were not responsible, but we have been paying the price of what was done during the Second World War."

Israel — at times joined by the United States — has regularly and roundly criticized the council for its alleged anti-Israel bias. The council has approved far more resolutions against Israel for its actions toward Palestinians over the years than against any other country.

The council is wrapping up its first session of the year, which began on Feb. 26, with action on more than 40 resolutions on subjects as diverse as the rights of the child; the environment and human rights; genocide prevention; and rights situations in countries like Sudan, Belarus and North Korea.

On Thursday, resolutions were passed on troubling rights situations in places like Myanmar, Iran, Ukraine and Syria.

The resolution comes amid a growing focus on weapons shipments to Israel — notably by its strongest backer, the United States — as Israel continues its military campaign in Gaza.

In a sign of Washington's growing impatience with Israel's handling of the military campaign, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a stark warning to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that future U.S. support for Israel's Gaza war depends on the swift implementation of new steps to protect civilians and aid workers.

That was the first time that Biden has threatened to rethink his backing if Israel doesn't change its tactics and allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

U.S. ambassador Michele Taylor, alluding to the Israeli strike that killed seven humanitarian workers from World Central Kitchen in Gaza this week, told the council: "Israel has not done enough to mitigate civilian harm."

The resolution had "many problematic elements — too many to name in full," she said, while noting a lack of "specific condemnation of Hamas for perpetrating the horrific Oct. 7 attacks" in Israel.

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