|UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 25, 2018 -- UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk on Wednesday lamented the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and called on the international community to insist all parties, Israel in particular, bring an immediate end to "this disaster."
"Palestinians living in Gaza have access to no more than five hours of electricity a day. The coastal aquifer which supplies most of Gaza's drinking water is 97 percent contaminated by seawater and sewage," said Lynk as he presented his report to the UN General Assembly's Third Committee.
Reiterating the World Bank's conclusion, the rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories said Gaza's economy is "in free fall," as its unemployment rate has reached 53 percent, with youth unemployment over 70 percent.
On the casualties among the protesters of the ongoing Great March of Return movement, Lynk said more than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces and almost 23,000 injured since the campaign began in late March.
The protesters, who gather to various parts of the Gaza frontier with Israel every Friday, demand the Palestinians' right to return to their original homes and an end to the Israeli blockade against the enclave.
Lynk said these demonstrations have been "largely peaceful and unarmed," reminding Israel of the obligation that weapons and lethal forces should only be used as a last resort and only in cases of imminent threat of death or serious injury.
"At the very least, a significant majority of these deaths and injuries do not appear to satisfy this strict criterion," he said.
The special rapporteur also called to attention Israel's push to legalize its settlement activities.
"We are witnessing strenuous efforts by the occupying power to entrench its claim over all or much of the West Bank," Lynk said, calling its increasing number of developments "soft-annexation."
The Israeli Knesset (parliament) has adopted a number of laws in the past year that have become "a flashing green light" for more formal annexation steps.
Taking the 2017 Settlement Regulation Law for example, he said the statute allows for the retroactive legalization of settlement outposts in the West Bank built on private Palestinian land.
The more blatant Jewish Nation-State Law provides "the state view the development of Jewish settlements as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation."
The rapporteur called for the UN to take actions, insisting Israel either annul its annexations and relinquish its occupation or be prepared to bear the full consequences of international accountability.
Moreover, Lynk said during his mandate, Israel has been on a "persistent stance of non-cooperation," denying his entry to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
"This stance of non-cooperation serves no one's interests, least of all the noble cause of human rights," he said.
He thanked Jordan for hosting his mission in June, noting that NGO workers and Palestinian officials had traveled to Amman to meet him or communicated with him through video or writing.