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Rights group urges ICC to probe Israel's violation of Palestinian cultural heritage

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows a Palestinian ancient cultural heritage pummeled by Israeli drones.

A prominent Palestinian rights group says the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Commission of Inquiry should include Israel's attacks on cultural property in Palestine in their investigation of the Tel Aviv regime's war crimes.

The al-Haq human rights organization, which monitors and documents rights violations committed by the occupying entity, delivered an oral statement on March 9 under interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights as part of its engagement with the 49th Session of the Human Rights Council, Palestine's official Wafa news agency reported on Saturday.

The statement slammed Israel’s apartheid policies and practices against cultural rights of the Palestinian people, particularly the regime's bombardment of cultural heritage sites in the Gaza Strip during its May 2021 military offensive.

It added that the attack resulted in the erasure of Palestinian heritage and impeding people from protecting their culture and realizing their right to self-determination.

“Israel has maintained its apartheid regime including through targeting, erasing, appropriating and/or exploiting Palestinian cultural heritage, as it’s integral to people’s identity and social cohesion, and contributes to the exercise of their right to self-determination,” the statement said.

“In the West Bank, the Israeli occupying authorities control archaeological sites, which are under continuous threat by Israel’s expanding settlement enterprise," added the rights group, which has been outlawed by Israel.

According to the statement, the Israeli regime's 14-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip, coupled with its indiscriminate and disproportionate bombings of cultural sites, have prevented the Palestinian people from protecting their cultural heritage, including through archeological excavations.

It noted that Israeli bombardment on Gaza in May 2021 damaged cultural heritage sites including the oldest known seaport in Gaza, the second oldest mosque in Palestine, and sites on UNESCO’s Tentative List.

The bombardment also targeted open lands on Gaza coastline overlying a Roman city, previously bombed in 2012, 2014, and 2018, leaving a multitude of large craters, al-Haq said.

The rights organization called on the ICC member states to “recognize Israel’s unlawful destruction of Palestinian cultural heritage as an element that enables it to entrench its apartheid regime.”

It also invited the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights to visit Palestine and report on Israel’s violations of Palestinian cultural rights.

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