Swiss MPs and journalists are set to travel aboard a Swiss ship taking part in an aid convoy bound for the Gaza Strip at the end of June, it was reported on Tuesday. The ten-ship flotilla was organized by human rights activists.

"/> Swiss MPs and journalists are set to travel aboard a Swiss ship taking part in an aid convoy bound for the Gaza Strip at the end of June, it was reported on Tuesday. The ten-ship flotilla was organized by human rights activists.

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ISRAEL

Swiss politicians to travel with Gaza flotilla

Swiss MPs and journalists are set to travel aboard a Swiss ship taking part in an aid convoy bound for the Gaza Strip at the end of June, it was reported on Tuesday. The ten-ship flotilla was organized by human rights activists.

Swiss politicians to travel with Gaza flotilla
Ship to Gaza (Sweden)

“The Swiss ship will set off in the last week of June,” Anouar Gharbi, president of  the Geneva-based human rights organization Right For All, told the SDA news agency. Gharbi refused make public which port the ship will depart from.

Around 220 Swiss non-governmental organizations support the project, and three members of the Swiss National Council, the lower house of the Swiss parliament, have said they would be aboard.

They are Joseph Zisyadis, of the far-left Party of Labour (PdA), and Carlo Sommaruga and Jean-Charles Rielle, both of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SP).

Gharbi, who coordinates Save Gaza, the international campaign to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza, added that there would also be a ten-person delegation from Germany. 

The flotilla was originally intended to set off last year, but was delayed in order to collect more donations. Gharbi said that most of the cost of the Swiss ship, which is expected to carry 4,000 tons of aid supplies, is now covered.

Last May, Free Gaza attempted to break through the Israeli sea blockade with six aid ships. Nine Turkish activists were killed when the Israeli military intervened.

bk/The Local 

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ISRAEL

Middle East civil rights urged at Geneva meet

An international conference in Geneva on Wednesday called on both Israelis and Palestinians to respect humanitarian rights laws in the occupied territories, but was condemned by Israel as a "political exercise".

Middle East civil rights urged at Geneva meet
Photo: The Local

Switzerland gathered diplomats from 126 of the 196 signatories of the Geneva Conventions to discuss protections for civilians, fulfilling a five-year-old request for such a conference from the UN General Assembly.

But the United States and Israel shunned the talks, held amid mounting tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, warning that the event threatened Switzerland's role as neutral arbiter.

The conference ended in a ten-point declaration condemning Israel's actions in the occupied territories and also reminding both sides of the protracted conflict of their obligations to protect civilians.

Paul Fivat, Switzerland's special ambassador for the Geneva Conventions, said the intention was "not to accuse, it was not a tribunal.. it was a place simply for the parties to reiterate what is international law".

"This declaration is a signal that is being sent to conflicting parties, especially the civilian populations, that there is a law which is protecting their interests," he told reporters.

But the Israeli foreign ministry said the talks undermined international law and "confers legitimacy on terrorist organizations and dictatorial regimes wherever they are".

"The conference convened today in Geneva was a political exercise, lacking any basis in the Geneva Conventions," the ministry said in a statement.

It added: "It won't stop Israel from implementing its primary obligation to its citizens — to provide them with security and protect them from merciless and fanatic terrorists (who) do not hide their desire to see Israel wiped off the map of the Middle East."

The US also boycotted the conference, saying that it "risks politicizing the Geneva Conventions".

Fivat took pains to stress that the conference was held in response to a 2009 recommendation from the UN General Assembly at the request of Palestinian authorities, and that all signatories of the Conventions were invited.

Initial consultations on a conference were suspended in 2011 before being re-launched in July.

The Palestinian envoy to the UN Human Rights Council, Ibrahim Khraishi, said before the conference that he hoped it would "be helpful to remind the Israelis of their obligations to respect the Geneva Conventions".

The conference, attended by permanent representatives to the UN, focused on the Fourth Convention, which defines humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone.

The final declaration reiterated the prohibition on all parties from conducting indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks, attacking protected targets such as schools and hospitals, and using civilians as human shields.

It also condemned Israel's towering concrete separation barrier that runs deep inside the West Bank, as well as Jewish settlements and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

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