UN Human Rights Council approves inquiry into ‘war crimes’ in Gaza

Watch above:Almost 700 Palestinians have died in the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, 167 of them children. Now, the UN’s top human rights official said she’s wondering if what Israel is doing amounts to war crimes. Eric Sorensen reports.

GENEVA – A special session of the United Nations’ top human rights body voted 29-1 to authorize an international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged abuses since mid-June in the Gaza Strip.

Only the United States voted against the resolution championed by Arab nations, but Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird accused the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) of singling out Israel and making no mention of Hamas in its resolution on the Gaza conflict.

Baird said Canada is frustrated and disappointed by the resolution, and claimed only Hamas was responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian people. (Canada is not a member-nation of UNHRC).

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Seventeen of the council’s 47 member-nations abstained from the vote.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that of the more than 600 Palestinian deaths in the Gaza Strip reviewed by the global body, three-quarters were civilians. At least 147 were children and 74 women, she said.

According to the latest count more than 680 Palestinians and 31 Israelis – two of them civilians – have been killed during the conflict.

Pillay noted an Israeli drone missile strike in Gaza City that killed three children and wounded two others while they were playing on the roof of their home. She also made reference to an Israeli strike and naval shelling that struck seven children playing on Gaza beach, killing four from the same family.

“These are just a few examples where there seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” Pillay told the rights council’s special session, which was called for by China, Russia and more than a dozen other nations.

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Israel launched its operation in Gaza on July 8 in response to heavy rocket fire out of Hamas-controlled Gaza. The fighting escalated last week with an Israeli ground offensive.

But Pillay also warned that Hamas and others were violating international law.

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“Israeli children, and their parents and other civilians, also have a right to live without the constant fear that a rocket fired from Gaza may land on their houses or their schools, killing or injuring them,” Pillay said.

“Once again, the principles of distinction and precaution are clearly not being observed during such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups,” she added.

Pillay said not abiding by those principles could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

At the session, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki accused Israel of committing a crime against humanity and violating international human rights law. Israeli Ambassador Eviatar Manor accused Hamas of committing war crimes.

With files from The Canadian Press