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UN Rights Chief Decries 'Massive' Rights Violations in Palestinian Territories


The U.N. high commissioner for human rights says the Palestinian territories have suffered "massive" violations of human rights during violence between Palestinian militants and the Israeli military.

U.N. human rights chief Louise Arbour spoke Monday during a visit to Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, a town the Israeli army shelled earlier this month, killing 19 people.

Arbour said she will speak with Palestinian and Israeli leaders during her five-day visit to the region and urge them to stop violence and protect civilians.

More than 300 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began an offensive in Gaza in June to recover a soldier seized by militants and to halt persistent rocket attacks into Israel.

Meanwhile, an aide (Nabil Amr) to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says talks with the governing Hamas group on forming a coalition government have reached a standstill and are suspended.

But Hamas officials deny any serious trouble with the negotiations. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Monday the talks are continuing at the "highest levels."

Officials from Hamas and President Abbas' Fatah movement have been holding talks aimed at forming a unity government. The goal is a moderate government that will be accepted by Western nations.

U.S. and European donors cut off aid money after Hamas took control of the Palestinian Authority earlier this year. The United States, Israel and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist group.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.