The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said Wednesday that ” there is a high possibility” that some military actions of the Israeli army in Gaza may constitute “war crimes.” The High Commissioner called for an emergency debate in the Council and the UN described as “unacceptable ” the firing of rockets and mortars by Hamas against Israel. One such rocket has exhausted the life of a Thai worker who died while in a greenhouse of Hof Ashkelon, north of Gaza, Carmen Rengel reports from Jerusalem. It is the third civilian casualties on the Israeli side. The offensive has killed some 650 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 32 Israelis, including 29 soldiers. The Israeli military says on Wednesday 50 rockets have been launched against its territory, of which 12 have been intercepted.
At a special meeting of the Council in Geneva, and after enumerating some cases of Israeli air strikes and bombing homes and hospitals in the coastal strip, the High Commissioner said: ” These are just some examples that suggest a high possibility that the international humanitarian law has been violated in a manner that could amount to war crimes. “
Pillay noted that according to preliminary data from the UN, Israeli attacks have killed more than 600 Palestinians, 74% of them civilians, including 147 children. The High Commissioner also noted that 27 Israeli soldiers and 2 civilians were killed during the attacks. “Each of these incidents should be investigated properly and independently,” she said.
Pillay stressed that the civilian houses “are not legitimate targets unless they are used for military purposes”, and called on the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law. “This involves the application of the principles of distinction between civilians and combatants, also between civilian objects and military objectives, proportionality and precautions in attack. Respect for the right to life of civilians, including children, must be a primary consideration, ” she said. ” Failure to observe these principles may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” she insisted.
The High Commissioner said that hundreds of homes and other civilian buildings (such as schools) have been destroyed or severely damaged in Gaza and more than 140,000 Palestinians have been forced to flee their homes to seek refuge.
“Right now, the indiscriminate firing by Hamas and other armed groups in more than 2,900 rockets and mortars from Gaza continues to endanger the lives of civilians in Israel,” she added. “I have repeatedly condemned this kind of indiscriminate attacks before and I do again today,” she said.
After intervention by Pillay, the Israeli ambassador to the Human Rights Council of the UN, Eviatar Manor, has defended his country’s right to ” self-defense ” and accused Hamas of committing ” war crimes by launching rockets and missiles ” on civilians to hide ammunition in schools and to” build tunnels to attack cities. ” ” Hamas is responsible for all Gazans victims,” he said. Manor has described as ” outbursts ” criticism of the military offensive on Gaza. “Residents of Gaza are not our enemies. Israel is fully committed to international law “, said the Israeli diplomat.
For his part, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority, Riad al Malki, has called on the international community to put an end to “impunity ” of Israel and bring him to justice for “crimes ” committed in Gaza. “Israel must be held accountable for their crimes,” he said. Al Maliki has said that the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is working ” thoroughly with all parties ” to achieve a permanent ceasefire and to ” protect the Palestinian people.”