UN rights chief urges Israel to avoid civilian targets

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Tuesday pressured [press release] Israel to avoid strikes on civilian structures in Gaza [JURIST news archive]. Pillay expressed acute concern over the surge in the number of Palestinian civilians killed and injured over the past 48 hours as a result of Israeli military action. As to whether any of these attacks constitute war crimes, the High Commissioner emphasized that it would depend on the specific circumstances, particularly a given party's effort to distinguish between combatants and civilians, precautions to avoid civilian casualties, and refraining from launching an attack when it is expected to cause excessive loss of civilian life in relation to the anticipated military advantage. In response [Reuters report] to the rising civilian death toll and the dozens of Gazan schools and religious sites damaged by the bombings, UNICEF [official website] said that children in Gaza were suffering from severe psycho-social distress that refrain them from sleeping, going out in public and engaging in social activities.

Last week Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] announced that peace talks were progressing toward a ceasefire in the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and Southern Israel, and reports Tuesday indicated that an agreement is close at hand. The ceasefire discussions between Morsi, the Quatari emir, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan [official profile, in Turkish] and former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal came a day after Pillay urged [JURIST report] a cessation of the continued indiscriminate attacks and targeting of civilians. In Israel, rocket fire from Gaza has resulted in three deaths as well as many counts of civilian injury and damage to civilian property. In August Amnesty International [advocacy website] called on Israel [JURIST report] to investigate its treatment of Palestinian detainees, alleging that two had been mistreated. In June the UN also urged Israel to end its blockade [JURIST report] of the Gaza Strip, alleging that it was violating international law.

 

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