Friday, January 9, 2009

UN High Commissioner on Human Rights: Israel Must Be Investigated for War Crimes

Reuters, January 9, 2009 - Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, singled out the killing of 30 Palestinian civilians in a home in central Gaza that was shelled by Israeli forces, and their alleged neglect of young, starving children whose mothers died in the attack.

"I am concerned with violations of international law. Incidents such as this must be investigated because they display elements of what could constitute war crimes," Pillay told Reuters in an interview....A U.N. aid agency reported on Friday that the 30 Palestinians were killed this week when the Israeli army sheltered 110 civilians in a house in the Zeitoun neighbourhood in central Gaza, later hit by shells.

"It cries out for proper investigation," said Pillay, a former International Criminal Court judge from South Africa.


The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday its rescue team had found four children near the bodies of their dead mothers in Zeitoun, not far from Israeli soldiers.

"There is an international obligation on the part of soldiers in their position to protect civilians, not to kill civilians indiscriminately in the first place, and when they do to make sure that they help the wounded," Pillay said.

"In this particular case these children were helpless and the soldiers were close by," she said.

Pillay, speaking earlier to a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council held on the Gaza crisis, called for accountability for any violations of international law.

Scores of people, including children, had been killed or wounded in "Israel's totally unacceptable strikes" against clearly marked U.N. facilities sheltering Gaza civilians, she said in a speech. Harm to civilians caused by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel was also "unacceptable."

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