[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Israeli 'war crimes', says UN rights official (judge Navi Pillay, from Durban)
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Sat Jan 10 09:40:24 GMT 2009
UN human rights chief accuses Israel of war crimes
GAZA, PALESTINIAN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES Jan 10 2009 08:43
The United Nations' most senior human rights official said on Friday
night that the Israeli military may have committed war crimes in Gaza.
The warning came as Israeli troops pressed on with the deadly offensive
in defiance of a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for
Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has called for
"credible, independent and transparent" investigations into possible
violations of humanitarian law, and singled out an incident this week in
Zeitoun, south-east of Gaza City, where up to 30 Palestinians in one
house were killed by Israeli shelling.
Pillay, a former international criminal court judge from South Africa,
told the BBC the incident "appears to have all the elements of war crimes".
The accusation came as Israel kept up its two-week-old air and ground
offensive in Gaza and dismissed as "unworkable" the UN Security Council
resolution which had called for "an immediate, durable and fully
Protests against the offensive were held across the world on Friday just
as diplomacy to halt the conflict appeared to falter.
With the Palestinian casualty toll rising to about 800 dead, including
265 children, and more than 3 000 injured, fresh evidence emerged on
Friday of the killings in Zeitoun. It was "one of the gravest incidents"
since Israel's offensive began two weeks ago, the UN office for the
coordination of humanitarian affairs said on Friday.
"There is an international obligation on the part of soldiers in their
position to protect civilians, not to kill civilians indiscriminately in
the first place, and when they do, to make sure that they help the
wounded," Pillay told Reuters. "In this particular case these children
were helpless and the soldiers were close by," she added.
An Israeli military spokesperson, Avital Leibovich, said the incident
was still being examined. "We don't warn people to go to other
buildings, this is not something we do," she said. "We don't know this
case, we don't know that we attacked it."
Despite the intense bombardment, militants in Gaza fired at least 30
rockets into southern Israel on Friday. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas
spokesperson, told al-Jazeera TV: "This resolution doesn't mean that the
war is over. We call on Palestinian fighters to mobilise and be ready to
face the offensive, and we urge the Arab masses to carry on with their
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Israeli officials said they could not be expected to halt their military
operation while the rockets continued and said they first wanted an end
to the rocket fire and a "mechanism" to prevent Hamas rearming in future.
"The whole idea that Israel will unilaterally stop protecting our people
when Hamas is sending rockets into our cities to kill our people is not
a reasonable request of Israel," said Mark Regev, spokesperson for Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert. Israel wanted security for its people in southern
Israel, he said, and dismissed suggestions his military might seek to
topple Hamas, saying they were "not in the regime-change business".
Israeli public opinion still strongly favours the war. One poll of
Jewish Israelis on Friday, by the War and Peace Index, said 90% of the
population supported continuing the operation until Israel achieved all
Olmert held a meeting of his security Cabinet, and on the agenda was
discussion about whether to intensify the offensive by launching a fresh
stage of attacks in which Israeli troops would invade the major urban
areas of Gaza as more reservists were called up. There was no word on
So far 13 Israelis have been killed in this conflict, of whom three were
Another 23 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military on Friday.
Seven from one family, including an infant, died when Israeli jets
bombed a five-storey building in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza. There
was heavy aerial bombing and artillery fire across the territory.
More than 20 000 Gazans have fled their homes in the north of the strip
and thousands more in the south. In some cases Israeli troops have told
them to leave, or dropped leaflets warning them to evacuate their homes.
Some are even dividing their families between different addresses for
fear of losing them all in a single air strike.
"Many people are leaving their homes and moving to the centre of the
cities," said Abdel Karim Ashour (53) who works with a local aid agency,
the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee. He, his wife and their
four children fled their house on the coastal road in northern Gaza on
the third day of the conflict. He sent the four children to stay with
his brother while he and his wife are staying at a friend's house. "We
were in an area of heavy shelling, so we left and I divided the family
to try to reduce the victims if we face any trouble. We try and keep in
touch by telephone but there are problems with the network," he said.
"We're just hoping for a ceasefire. If the fighting goes on there will
be more victims." - guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2009
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