Asia Pacific Report newsdesk
The foreign spokesperson for New Zealand’s Green Party, Golriz Ghahraman, is “disappointed” by the government’s response to escalating attacks by Israel on the Gaza enclave, reports TVNZ News.
It comes amid the destruction at the weekend on a Gaza building which was headquarters of international media organisations, including the Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV network and US-based Associated Press news agency.
As the conflict reaches its seventh day, at least 192 people, including 58 children and 34 women, have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the past week. Forty two were killed yesterday alone in the deadliest day so far.
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More than 1200 others have been wounded. In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces have killed at least 13 Palestinians.
“I’ve been disappointed at the New Zealand government response over the [past] six days. I think we should have responded strongly at the very start of what was very violent systemic attacks on the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem, that was backed by the Israel government,” Ghahraman said.
“We then had some retaliation and now have a full-on bombardment of a civilian population in Gaza by one of the world’s most powerful militaries.
“This is an atrocity and it’s absolutely not good enough that the New Zealand government hasn’t condemned it,” Ghahraman says.
She said she viewed the conflict from her background as an international criminal lawyer.
‘Our focus on casualties’
“Our focus is always obviously on civilian casualties and civilian protection.
“Gaza is a trapped population in the context of an occupation. Israel has obligations in humanitarian law to that population every single day. They [Gaza population] don’t have the ability to leave.
“And now over the past few days, what we’ve seen is the occupying force becoming the aggressor,” Ghahraman says.
The former United Nations lawyer said New Zealand had an “obligation” to respond to civilians being killed in what she called an “absolute breach of international humanitarian law”.
New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has expressed concern over the attacks on both sides, but has not definitively addressed how the government is stepping in, reported TVNZ’s Jane Nixon.
“As we have previously said, Aotearoa New Zealand is very concerned about the ongoing violence in Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank,” she said in a statement to TVNZ News.
“What’s important is ensuring that that all sides exercise restraint to prevent further civilian casualties and work towards a ceasefire. This is our number one priority for the region.
Calling for ‘rapid de-escalation’
“We are continuing to work alongside the international community, continue to call for rapid de-escalation and for all sides to adhere to international law and international humanitarian law.
“As an international community we need to work to ensure there is a stop in hostilities. We are continuing to raise concerns through international and diplomatic channels,” Mahuta said.
It comes as the Israeli consulate in New Zealand released a press statement today calling on the New Zealand government to “join the many members of the international community who have strongly supported Israel’s right to defend itself”.
Israel’s Prime Minister also issued a tweet today, thanking 25 nations, including Australia – but not New Zealand – for supporting the nation.