News / Middle East

UN Debate Condemns Israel’s Military Incursion into Gaza

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay arrives for the 21st Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories at the United Nations Office in Geneva, July 23, 2014.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay arrives for the 21st Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories at the United Nations Office in Geneva, July 23, 2014.
Lisa Schlein

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is warning Israel that targeting civilian facilities in Gaza may amount to war crimes, and she called for an end to the 16-day war in Gaza, which has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties.

Pillay, who also condemned Palestinian fighters' tactics in the Gaza conflict, spoke Wednesday at the opening of an emergency session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The U.N. human rights chief set the tone for the emergency debate at the rights council.  She lamented the high toll of civilian deaths caused by Israel’s military incursion in the Gaza Strip.

She noted that hostilities have resulted in the deaths of more than 600 Palestinians, including at least 147 children and 74 women. She said hundreds of homes and other civilian buildings have been destroyed or damaged and more than 140,000 Palestinians displaced.

Pillay cited a number of Israeli strikes on medical facilities and noted many instances of civilians, including women and children, being killed when their homes were hit by Israeli air strikes or shelling.

‘These are just a few instances where there seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes," she said. "Every one of these incidents must be properly and independently investigated.”

Pillay also had harsh words for the Palestinian group Hamas. She condemned Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza for indiscriminately firing more than 2,900 rockets, as well as mortar shells, into Israel.  She said military assets such as rocket launch sites must not be located in densely populated areas, and noted these actions also may amount to war crimes.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki accused Israel of heinous crimes against his people. He said Israel’s bombing is causing massive destruction in Gaza and depriving people of their right to life.  

“We should shed light on the Israeli practices. Israel must be held accountable for its crimes," he said. "The impunity enjoyed by Israel has given rise to a legal void - a void in which justice does not exist in the country and impunity prevails. That is why Israel is encouraged to repeat its violations.”

The applause that greeted the Palestinian official's comments triggered a reprimand from the rights council president, who told delegates to refrain from showing their passion.

Speaking for Israel, Ambassador Eviator Manor said the rights council had no understanding of Israel’s need to defend itself and was only interested in naming and shaming his country.

Manor accused Hamas of war crimes and said Israel will destroy the group’s military infrastructure. He added that residents of Gaza were not Israel’s enemies and said his government is fully committed to international law.

“This council has lost its bearing. This Special Session is misguided, ill conceived and counter-productive to efforts made as we speak to end hostilities," he said. "The resolution which will be presented to you today is totally unbalanced, asymmetric and destructive.”

The resolution in the rights council condemns what it calls the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights arising from Israel’s military operations in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in Gaza. It demands an immediate end to Israeli military assaults and insists Israel end its illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, which amounts to collective punishment.   

The resolution also calls for an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law in the Palestinian territory.

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by: Stefan
July 24, 2014 12:02 AM
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, please tell us what action you are taking to indict those responsible for downing the Malaysian airliner to the Hague for trial and what warning have you issued to Russia, for supporting those responsible. Finally when last did you visit Israel.

by: Not Again from: Canada
July 23, 2014 10:03 PM
This is the third time Hamas has forced a major war on Israel; the massive bombardments of Israel for the last four month+ left no choice but to fire back at Hamas. As all terrorist orgs, Hamas, uses civilians as shields, and it fires projectiles against civilian areas. Israel was fortunate to have developed Iron Dome, which knocks out the majority of the Gaza launched projectles, otherwise Israel would have suffered hundredths of casualties.
In my view, UNHRC targets Israel, because its bias against Israel; where was UNHRC 4+ months ago? No good will come from such biased decisions, it just continues to substract from the credibility of the organization.
For over four months Israel has been bombarded by projectiles from Gaza, not one word from the UNHRC organization. Missiles have even been found in UN compounds in Gaza, really makes you wonder about the neutrality of the UN.
It is becoming evident, that as long as terrorists attack, and continue attacking be it against Israel, or attack school girls in Nigeria, or Balaka terrorist attack Christians in CAR... the UN remains mute; as soon as the victms start defending themselves, the UNHRC wakes up. Not a good way to do business; armed conflicts need to be dealt as soon as the first spark flies, so that the sitiuation does not rapidly escalate,to incredible size, as we see in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen an so on. We see more and more conflicts, and we see the UNHRC takes longer and longer to react; my conclusion is that the org picks and choses which country to target, and Israel is the usual country targeted, even when it does not even initiate the wars.
In Response

by: Ben from: Australia
July 24, 2014 7:30 AM
I think I agree with you, but before I commit, I just want to know the rough numbers of civilians especially kids killed on each side. This is really the indication as to who is the most tyrannical. I expect it's similar on both sides mind you.

by: Larry Robins from: Ft Lauderdale
July 23, 2014 8:29 PM
Go Hamas Go! How many more children will you hide behind as you launch bombs into Israel? How many more women will you use as human shields to hide behind as you attack Israel? How many more Arab casualties will you cause by your stupid actions? Your hatred of the Jews? Your stupid admin policies in Gaza that has destroyed the quality of life under your rule? If your people do not revolt against you, they deserve you. Not my pity, but you!

by: Valentine from: Lagos
July 23, 2014 3:10 PM
Mr Manor, pls forget about people like Pillay who does not want peace in Isreal.
For now, the only way Israel will be secured is to ve a very strong military.

by: Nocroman from: Michigan
July 23, 2014 2:21 PM
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay should get her head out of her ass. As long as the Palestinian Authorities allow Hamas to randomly attack Israel, Then Israel has the right to inflict as much damage to Hamas as is humanly possible. Civilians have a responsibility to their family to get out of the way of pick up arms and shoot Hamas members attacking Israel to prevent WAR and the needless death of their family members. If a society allows terrorists to exist in their country or on their lands, then they deserve what comes after the terrorists Blow up innocents. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay should be charging The Hamas leaders with war crimes for the blatant random missile attacks on Israel with no regard to Israel's civilian population.
In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
July 23, 2014 8:47 PM
the Israel has to stop. there are 600 people killed. and the rocket attack is pretext. this rocket can not hit a target .the chance that rocket hit a target is very small. The Israel hostility is for more than 15 days and 600 lost their live. why not stop and look for a solution. both sides are stubborn and civilian are the real victim. Israel has to respect the law especially international law and never did. is real claim that it is a western country and acting in civilized manner but the action of Israel explained otherwise

by: Kevin Spring from: N.E. illinois
July 23, 2014 2:08 PM
If anyone should be charge with war crimes it's both the Hammas and the U.N.. It's time to shut down the U.N.
In Response

by: anna_K from: helsinki
July 23, 2014 5:35 PM
I agree that the UN has long been a very ridiculous organization that has never ever helped those who were in desperate trouble but has always found a way to condemn those defending themselves.

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