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New York, Jan 20: The inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States should usher in a new era of reformed counter-terrorism policies, Human Rights Watch has said.President Obama should immediately renounce the Bush administration’s abusive approach to fighting terrorism and embrace new policies that respect basic rights, Human Rights Watch observed. 

”The policies of the last seven-and-a-half years have not only damaged the reputation of the US as a nation that adheres to the rule of law, but they have undermined Washington’s ability to effectively fight terror,” said Joanne Mariner, Terrorism and Counter-terrorism director at Human Rights Watch. 

”We expect President Obama to take rapid steps to change course to close Guantanamo, end the military commissions, and abolish the CIA’s abusive detention programme.” According to news reports, Mr. Obama plans to issue an executive order in his first days in office mandating that the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay be closed. Human Rights Watch called on the new administration to bring federal charges against those detainees implicated in serious criminal acts, and to release those it does not plan to charge.

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Jerusalem: (Reuters: 19/1/2009): Human rights group Amnesty International accused Israel of war crimes on Monday, saying its use of white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas of Gaza was indiscriminate and illegal. Skip related content. 

White phosphorus is a high-incendiary substance that burns very brightly and for long periods. It frequently is used to produce smoke screens, but can also be used as a weapon, producing extreme burns if it makes contact with skin.

"Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza’s densely populated residential neighborhoods is inherently indiscriminate," Donatella Rovera, a Middle East researcher with Amnesty International, said in a statement. 

"Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime," she said.

Use of white phosphorus is not prohibited under international law, but the indiscriminate use of any weapon in an area crowded with civilians could be used as the basis to make war crimes charges, legal experts have said.

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JERUSALEM –(Agencies:  18/1/2009) Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire in the Gaza Strip on Sunday meant to end three devastating weeks of war against Hamas militants, but just hours later militants fired a volley of rockets into southern Israel, officials said, threatening to reignite the violence.

No one was injured in the assault in which five rockets were fired and four landed. But shortly afterward, security sources in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun reported an airstrike that wounded a woman and her child. The Israeli military had no comment. 

In another incident after the truce took hold, militants fired small arms at an infantry patrol, which directed artillery and aircraft to strike back, the military said.

"Israel will only act in response to attacks by Hamas, either rockets into Israel or firing upon our forces," government spokesman Mark Regev said. "If Hamas does deliberately torpedo this cease-fire, they are exposing themselves before the entire international community as a group of cynical extremists that have absolutely no interest in the well-being of the people of Gaza."

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GAZA: (Agencies: 19/1/2009): Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Sunday that Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip was a failure and had not cowed the Palestinians, but praised his movement for deciding to declare a cease-fire. 

The enemy has failed to achieve its goals," Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas leader in the territory, said in a speech broadcast on Hamas television Though he called the war, in which more than 1,300 Gazans and 13 Israelis died, a "popular victory" for Palestinians, Haniyeh said Hamas’s decision to declare a truce on Sunday was "wise and responsible". 

Hamas announced an immediate cease-fire by its militants and allied groups in Gaza on Sunday, giving Israel a week to pull out its troops from the coastal territory. 

Israel, which mounted an offensive against Hamas three weeks ago to halt years of rocket attacks, agreed to silence its guns and ground its aircraft early Sunday.

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Press Release by UN Human Rights Council, 12 January 2009The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its ninth Special Session on the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent aggression of the occupied Gaza Strip, and adopted a resolution in which it strongly condemned the ongoing Israeli military operation in Gaza, which had resulted in massive violations of human rights of the Palestinian people, and demanded the occupying power, Israel, to immediately withdraw its military forces from Gaza. The Council also decided to dispatch an urgent independent international fact-finding mission to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

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UN: (11/1/2009)" The United Nations’ most senior human rights official said Friday (9/1/2009) 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 UN security council resolution calling for a ceasefire. 

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 a reporter 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 respected ceasefire".

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GAZA: (9/1/2009):  “Abu Salah died, his wife died. Abu Tawfiq died, his son died, his wife also died. Mohammed Ibrahim died, and his mother died. Ishaq died and Nasar died. The wife of Nael Samouni died. Many people died.

“There were maybe more than 25 people killed,” said Ahmed Ibrahim Samouni, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who was wounded in the leg and chest, but survived the Israeli shelling of a house in north Gaza on January 4.

A report by the UN’s Office for the Co-coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said at least 30 people were killed in the incident. Most were members of Ahmed’s family.

OCHA deputy chief Allegra Pacheco quoted eyewitnesses in the Zeitun district as saying Israeli troops had ordered about 100 civilians to get into the house and stay there, out of their way. But the following day the house was hit by Israeli shells.

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JERUSALEM – (Agencies: 8/1/2009): Lebanese militants fired at least three rockets into northern Israel early Thursday, threatening to open a second front for the Jewish state as it pushed forward with its offensive in the Gaza Strip. Gaza militants fired a rocket barrage into southern Israel almost simultaneously.

There were no serious injuries in either attack. But the rockets on Israel’s north raised the specter of renewed hostilities with
Hezbollah, just 2 1/2 years after Israel battled the guerrilla group to a 34-day stalemate. Hezbollah started the 2006 war as Israel was battling Palestinian militants in Gaza.

has repeatedly said it was prepared for a possible attack on the north since it launched its bruising campaign against Hamas militants in Gaza on Dec. 27. Israel has mobilized thousands of reserve troops for such a scenario, and leaders have warned Hezbollah of dire consequences if it enters the fighting.

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UN: (Agencies: 5/1/2009): The UN Security Council was to meet again Tuesday to weigh an Arab call for an immediate ceasefire in the conflict in the Gaza Strip and for protection of Palestinian civilians, diplomats said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner
, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the 15-member body this month, was to chair Tuesday’s meeting, scheduled for 5 pm (2200 GMT), and according to France’s UN Ambassador to the UN Jean-Maurice Ripert said.

A Western diplomat said France was working with Arab states to finalize a draft resolution that would call for an immediate ceasefire, specifically an end to the Israeli military assault as well as to rocket firing into
Israel by Gaza-based militants.

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UN: (Agencies: 4/1/2009): The UN Security Council late Saturday failed to agree on a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in the wake of Israel’s ground invasion of the Palestinian territory that had sparked worldwide condemnation.

After nearly four hours of closed-door consultations, members of the council emerged without reaching agreement that would have asked
Israel and Hamas to end eight-day hostilities that have claimed the lives of at least 460 Palestinians.

The meeting was the
Security Council‘s third since the conflict erupted on December 27.

A draft statement submitted earlier for the council’s consideration by
Libya on behalf of the Arab League had expressed "serious concern" about the ground invasion and called on the parties "to observe an immediate ceasefire and for its full respect".

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