UN denounces Israeli “war crimes” in Gaza
Palestinian children sit in a car boot as they flee their family homes following heavy Israeli shelling during an Israeli ground offensive east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip - REUTERS

CAIRO: The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) issued a report Wednesday condemning Israel for the killing of innocent civilians in Gaza, including children, women, elderly people warning that violations may amount to war crimes.

The council report expressed concern about the critical humanitarian situation in Gaza Strip, the displacement of thousands of Gazans and the damage to the Palestinian infrastructure, accusing Israel of  of the closure of all borders with Gaza and hampering the freedom of transport.

“There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in emergency debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in light of Israel’s attack on Gaza.

Pillay called for an international inquiry into violations that may have been committed during Israel’s latest military offensive in Gaza, saying that “Every incident that includes violation must be properly and independently investigated.”

Despite Israeli repeatedly claims that it has warned civilians to leave their homes or conducted an evacuation before any attack, this does not release Israel from its obligations under international humanitarian law, stressed Pillay who added that any warning for civilians must meet with the requirements of the international law, including that this warning be clear, credible and allows sufficient time for people to react to it.

“Civilian homes are not legitimate targets unless they are being used for, or contribute to, military purposes at the time in question. In case of doubt, civilian homes are presumed not to be legitimate targets. Even where a home is identified as being used for military purposes, any attack must be proportionate, offer a definite military advantage in the prevailing circumstances at the time, and precautions must be taken,” she stated.

Pillay emphasized that Israel had not done enough to protect civilians. A number of incidents, belies the claim that all necessary precautions are being taken to protect civilians’ lives.

On July 20, a video, published by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), showed a Palestinian man shot by an Israeli sniper while looking for his relatives in Shuja’iyyah, where more than 60 people were killed, 200 were injured and tens of thousands evacuated, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

The man was shot and fell down. He took another bullet when he was lying prone.

In addition to that, Pillay cited an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City that killed three children and wounded two others while they were playing on the roof of their home. She also referred  to an Israeli strike and naval shelling that killed four from the same family.

Pillay called on Israel to end its illegitimate siege on Gaza and re-open all crossings to let in goods and passengers. A total of 147 children have been killed in Gaza over the past 16 days, which raise concerns about respect for the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack, added Pillay.

The UNHRC unanimously approved on Wednesday a resolution condemning Israeli attacks on Gaza, MENA reported. Some 29 countries voted for a resolution while 17 others abstained. The US voted against the resolution which was floated by the Arab group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Cuba and Venezuela.

Pillay also condemned Hamas for  violating international law.

“Israeli children, and their parents and other civilians, also have a right to live without the constant fear that a rocket fired from Gaza may land on their houses or their schools, killing or injuring them,” Pillay said.

In related news, source told Al Masry al Youm Monday that Israel is obliged to open all Gaza crossings, according to the the Fourth Geneva Convention which describes Israel as an “Occupying Power” that has responsibilities to ensure the arrival of materials and commodities to Gaza residents.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, about 682 Palestinians were so far killed and 4,250 were injured as a result of the Israeli offensive on Gaza, which Israel claimed was initially launched against the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

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