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".
Protests against the offensive were held across the world yesterday just as diplomacy to halt the conflict appeared to falter.
With the Palestinian casualty toll rising to about 1000 dead, including 265 children, and more than 4000 injured, fresh evidence emerged Thursday (8/1/2009) 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 co-ordination of humanitarian affairs said on Thursday.
"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.
Rights group: Israel uses incendiary bombs in Gaza:
In another related development, Human Rights Watch said yesterday (11/1/2009) that Israel’s military has fired artillery shells with the incendiary agent white phosphorus into Gaza and a doctor there said the chemical was suspected in the case of 10 burn victims who had skin peeling off their faces and bodies.
Researchers in Israel from the rights group witnessed hours of artillery bombardments that sent trails of burning smoke indicating white phosphorus over the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. But they could not confirm injuries on the ground because they have been barred from entering the territory.
The chief doctor at Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza said he treated several victims there with serious burns that might have been caused by phosphorus. He said, however, that he did not have the resources or expertise to say with certainty what caused the injuries.
The substance can cause serious burns if it touches the skin and can spark fires on the ground, the rights group said in a written statement calling on Israel not to use it in crowded areas of Gaza.
Military spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibovich refused to comment directly on whether Israel was using phosphorus, but said the army was "using its munitions in accordance with international law."