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UN Rights Expert Accuses Israel of War Crimes

A special U.N. investigator says Israel's military assault on the densely populated Gaza Strip appears to constitute a war crime. Human rights expert Richard Falk is calling for an independent investigation into possible war crimes committed by Israel and the Hamas authorities in the Palestinian Occupied Territory. Falk submitted his report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In his 26-page report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, U.N. Investigator Richard Falk, accuses Israel of launching attacks that are inherently unlawful and would constitute a war crime under international law.

He calls the Israeli attacks a massive assault on a densely populated urbanized setting an inhumane form of warfare that kills, maims and inflicts mental harm on an entire civilian population.

Falk criticizes Israel for continuing the blockade of Gaza since the January 9 cease-fire despite its proven harmful impact on the civilian population.

He expresses concern that Israel has ignored calls by many prominent leaders, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President, Barack Obama to open Gaza-border crossings.

"There is an international consensus that the maintenance of the blockade, which was so harmful to the Gazan people before the combat period starting on December 27th - the persistence of that blockade is an unconditional violation of international humanitarian law and should cease immediately," said Richard Falk.

Falk says more than 1,400 Palestinians, including 960 civilians, were killed during the Israeli military offensive in Gaza.

Israel, which lost 13 people during the war, disputes these figures, saying the number of civilians killed is far lower. Israel also accuses Hamas fighters of launching rocket attacks from civilian facilities and using civilians as human shields during the conflict.

Falk urges the Council to send a fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity made against Israel and Hamas.

The Associated Press says only one of nine U.N. experts filing reports on the Gaza incursion was allowed into the territory by Hamas.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Aharon Lashno Yaar calls the Special Investigator's report biased and un-objective.

"However, Israel has found the report to have no value except to narrowly further the politicized agenda of the Human Rights Council," said Aharon Lashno Yaar. "The report grossly and undeniably includes significant factual and legal errors and misrepresentations."

The Israeli Ambassador says his country was compelled to enter the Gaza Strip in response to years of bombardment of its citizens by Hamas rocket fire.

Ambassador Yaar said Hamas terrorists use women and children as human shields when they launch attacks from schools, homes, hospitals and mosques

He denies that Israel does not allow humanitarian assistance to enter Gaza. On the contrary, he accuses Hamas of hijacking humanitarian assistance and denying it to their own people. Last month, the United Nations briefly suspended aid shipments to Gaza because it said Hamas was stealing them.