The U.N.'s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, is calling for an
independent investigation into possible war crimes in both Gaza and
Israel. She spoke at the opening of an emergency session called by the
UN Human Rights Council to discuss the crisis in Gaza.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, did not mince her
words. She called the situation in Gaza intolerable. She had harsh
words for both sides in the conflict.
She criticized the leaders
of Hamas for the harm its rocket fire into Israel is causing
civilians. At the same time, she noted that retaliatory air strikes
by Israeli forces are exacting an unbearable toll in lives and
"I also wish to underline that action on the part
of Israel's opponents that may deliberately put civilians at risk in
the Gaza Strip is prohibited under international law," said Pillay.
"This would include the use of people as human shields. The vicious
cycle of provocation and retribution must be brought to an end."
High Commissioner deplored Israel's totally unacceptable strikes
against clearly marked U.N. facilities where civilians were taking
shelter. She said scores of people, including children were wounded in
She said the killing and wounding of U.N. workers
Thursday by Israeli military led to the U.N.'s decision to suspend its
relief operations in the Gaza Strip. She urged both parties to the
conflict to live up to their obligations under international
humanitarian law. She said they must care for the wounded and not
target health workers, hospitals and ambulances.
must be ensured for violations of international law," said Pillay. "As
a first step, credible, independent, and transparent investigations
must be carried out to identify violations and to establish
responsibilities. Equally crucial is upholding the right of victims to
reparation. I remind this Council that violations of international
humanitarian law may constitute war crimes for which individual
criminal responsibility may be invoked."
Israel was subjected
to a barrage of criticism as state after state accused the government
of grossly violating the human rights of the Palestinian people. They
condemned Israel for the use of disproportionate force, which has
resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians.
ambassador in Geneva, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, was unrepentant about his
government's actions to protect its civilian population from Hamas
He blamed Hamas for provoking Israel and for choosing its own military-build-up over the welfare of the Palestinian people.
uses the Palestinian population as human shields, hiding in schools,
mosques and homes in Gaza, also turning them into ammunition
warehouses," said Leshno-Yaar. "For Hamas, a "civilian" is nothing
more than a sophisticated and efficient method of warfare and defense."
The Israeli ambassador said negotiations have always been
Israel's preferred path. He added a hope that in the aftermath of,
what he called the unavoidable military operation in Gaza, a new and
peaceful reality would prevail.