Countries at UN rally behind expert who accused Israel of 'genocide'

Countries at UN rally behind expert who accused Israel of 'genocide'
Countries at the United Nations applauded Francesca Albanese for her report saying that Israel was committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.
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Francesca Albanese said that Israel had laid bare its "genocidal intent" to "rid Palestine of Palestinians" [Getty]

The UN expert who concluded Israel was committing acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip received broad support at the United Nations on Tuesday, with countries speaking up to back her and her report.

Francesca Albanese, the special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, told the UN Human Rights Council that countries should impose an arms embargo and sanctions on Israel.

Expanding in person on her report released on Monday, Albanese said Israel was characterising the entire Gazan population as "targetable, killable and destroyable", and had ostentatiously laid bare its "genocidal intent" to "rid Palestine of Palestinians".

Dozens of diplomats, mostly representing Arab and Muslim countries but also Latin America, took the floor to defend her mandate and her work.

Pakistan, speaking for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, backed her call for sanctions and an arms embargo.

"We commend your courage in documenting... acts amounting to genocide in Gaza," Islamabad's representative said.

"The occupation force's dangerous and ruthless push for a final solution to the Palestinian question is plain for all to see, as its forces encircle Rafah like vultures and its ravenous land grab continues unabated in the West Bank."

Egypt, speaking for Arab group countries, affirmed their support for Albanese's mandate and said they were gravely concerned about Israel's "structured and systematic attack to make the Gaza Strip uninhabitable".

And Qatar, on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, thanked Albanese for her report and demanded the international community "put an end to genocide being perpetrated by the Israeli war machinery".

Genocidal intent

In her speech, Albanese told the top UN rights body that Israel had "destroyed Gaza".

"When genocidal intent is so conspicuous, so ostentatious, as it is in Gaza, we cannot avert our eyes: we must confront genocide, we must prevent it and we must punish it," she said.

"The genocide in Gaza is the most extreme stage of a long-standing settler-colonial process of erasure of the native Palestinians."

Special rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council, although they do not speak on behalf of the UN.

In response, Russia said it was "horrified" by Israel's military operation that had seen "civilian infrastructure targeted" while China said it was was ready to facilitate peace talks.

The European Union called for "proper and independent investigations on all allegations" and while appalled by the civilian death toll, said that it recognised what it called "Israel's right to self-defence".


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US and Israeli rejection

Albanese's speech concluded to applause in the chamber. Israel was not present, nor was its chief ally the United States.

Israel has long been harshly critical of Albanese, and on Monday immediately rejected her report as an "obscene inversion of reality".

The United States called her mandate "biased against Israel".

In the rights council on Tuesday, the only firm support for such positions came from pro-Israeli non-governmental organisations.

The World Jewish Congress said Albanese's mandate "seeks to entrench divisions and a one-sided narrative instead of pursuing a balanced and inclusive approach".

The European Union of Jewish Students said Albanese's "resignation is imperative" for the council to retain any credibility on issues concerning Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Israel's indiscriminate war on Gaza has left the territory in ruins and killed at least 32,400 people, most of them women and children, according to the health ministry in the territory.

It began after Hamas launched a surprise attack on October 7 which resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel.