A United Nations special investigator has accused Israel of using excessive force in responding to attacks by Palestinians.

U.N. Special Investigator John Dugard acknowledges that Israel has legitimate security concerns and is entitled to take strong action to prevent suicide bombings and other acts of terror.

But he says there must be some limits on the extent to which human rights may be violated in the name of anti-terrorism. He says there must be a balance between respect for basic human rights and the interests of security.

"My report suggests that the action taken by the Israelis in response to the real security need has been disproportionate," he explained. "There has been considerable loss of life. Over 2,500 Palestinians have now been killed, some 700 Israelis have been killed. Most of those killed on both sides have been civilians."

Mr. Dugard calls the loss of life a violation of the right to life. He says a distinction must be made between civilians and combatants.

The U.N. investigator says the situation in the Palestinian territories has seriously deteriorated under Israel's military occupation.

According to Mr. Dugard, 60 percent of the population lives on less than two dollars a day, half of the population is unemployed and 22 percent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Mr. Dugard says he also is very concerned by the increase in Israeli settlements as well as its territorial expansion. He says a security wall Israel is erecting around part of the territories is encroaching deeply into Palestinian territory.

"The wall is being used as a way of expanding Israel's territory," he said. "Israel responded that this is a security measure and that this is a temporary security measure. But, I think the reality is that this is a form of increasing annexation of Palestinian territory."

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yaakov Levy, calls the investigator's report one-sided and skewered. He says it is a clear example of a double standard practiced against Israel at the United Nations.

"The Special Rapporteur views Israel's security measures as taking place in a vacuum. He does not recognize the security threats and the terrorism thrust upon Israel on a daily basis which necessitates response," he said.

Mr. Levy also rejects the investigator's assertion that Israel is trying to annex Palestinian territory. He says the security fence is strictly meant for defensive purposes.