GENEVA – The United Nations denounced Israel’s ongoing exploitation of Palestinian natural resources and its use of force during protests in occupied territory, both of which were deemed human rights violations, a special rapporteur said Monday.
Michael Lynk called on the international community to investigate what he described as mass killings of Palestinian demonstrators during protests in the Gaza Strip and condemned the 12-year blockade of resources Israel had imposed on the region.
“With the collapse of natural sources of drinking water in Gaza and the inability of Palestinians to access most of their water sources in the West Bank, water has become a potent symbol of the systematic violation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” he said at a general assembly to launch his most recent report.
Lynk said that close to 5 million Palestinians had no control over their daily lives due to a lack of access to clean water.
Since 2017 more than 96 percent of aquifers in Gaza were no longer sanitized, his report added.
Gaza and its residents rely on local aquifers as a source of clean water.
Overpopulation, over-extraction, and inadequate sewage systems had all contributed to the water crises, the report said.
The rapporteur said that Palestinians living in the West Bank were consistently denied access to the mineral wealth the Dead Sea, part of which is within the occupied Palestinian territory, had to offer and added that natural resources were being extracted by Israel.
“States are obligated to ensure that the enjoyment of human rights is not affected by environmental harm, and to adopt legal and institutional frameworks that protect against any environmental damage that interferes with the enjoyment of human rights,” Lynk said.
The expert also backed the conclusions of a UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory, which started nearly a year ago.
Since the Gaza’s Great March of Return began, 189 Palestinians have been killed and some 10,000 have been injured, many so severely that they have been left disabled for life.
The human rights expert decried the fact that for a third consecutive year, ever since Lynk had been appointed the UN’s special rapporteur, Israel had banned him from visiting the occupied Palestinian territory.
This is not unusual, Israel has not granted access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory to Lynk’s predecessors, and the UN expert said he had personally not received a reply from the government of Israel.
In his report, Lynk highlighted the desperate situation in Gaza, in particular, where unemployment has reached 54 percent, 68 percent of the population suffering varying degrees of food shortages and more than half of the population are living in poverty.