Saturday 24 February 2018

Israel 'may have committed war crimes' as one child killed every hour in Gaza over last two days

Richard Spencer in Cairo David Blair in Gaza

Israel may have committed war crimes by killing civilians and shelling houses and hospitals during its two-week-old offensive in the Gaza Strip, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said today.

Pillay, opening an emergency debate at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, also condemned the indiscriminate firing of rockets and mortars by Palestinian militants into Israel.

Israeli soldiers ride atop an armoured personnel carrier (APC) outside the northern Gaza Strip. Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top US and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives. Reuters
Israeli soldiers ride atop an armoured personnel carrier (APC) outside the northern Gaza Strip. Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top US and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives. Reuters
An Israeli soldier splashes water on his face as he stands atop a tank outside the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters
A Palestinian medic gestures at Al-Aqsa hospital, which witnesses said was damaged in an Israeli shelling on Monday, in Deir El-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. Reuters
Israeli soldiers fire a mortar towards the Gaza Strip. Reuters
A Palestinian gunman fires in the air during the funeral of Mahmoud al-Shawamrah in the West Bank town of Al-Ram near Jerusalem. Reuters
Palestinian protesters run from tear gas thrown by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against the Israeli military action in Gaza, near the West Bank city of Nablus. AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) gestures as he speaks during a joint news conference with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv. Reuters
Bansayan, the brother of Israeli soldier Bayhesain Kshaun, 39, who was killed on July 21, mourns during his brother's funeral in the southern town of Netivot. Reuters
Palestinians inspect Al Farouk mosque destroyed by an overnight Israeli strike, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. AP
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City. AP
Palestinians walk past the ruins of a mosque, which police said was hit in an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City. Reuters
An Israeli soldier rests at a field just outside Gaza. Reuters
Gas deployed by the Israeli army gushes out of a hole in a tunnel, which was used by Hamas militants in an attack on July 21, during an operation to search for tunnels dug by the Palestinian militants, just outside the Gaza Strip. Reuters
Israeli soldiers carry missiles to armoured personnel carriers (APCs) as they prepare to send more ammunition to their comrades operating in the Gaza Strip, just outside Gaza. Reuters
An Israeli Apache helicopter fires a missile towards the Gaza Strip. Reuters
Smoke is seen after an Israeli strike over the Gaza Strip. Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top US and United Nations diplomats pursued talks on halting the fighting that has claimed more than 600 lives. Reuters

Citing cases Israeli air strikes and shelling hitting houses and hospitals in the coastal enclave, she said: "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.

"Every one of these incidents must be properly and independently investigated," Pillay said in some of her strongest comments on the conflict.

The Geneva rights forum convened the special one-day session at the request of the Palestinians, Egypt and Pakistan.

Israel, which accuses the Council of bias, boycotted the Geneva forum for 20 months, resuming cooperation in October. Its main ally the United States, a member state, has also said Israel is unfairly singled out.

Meanwhile Delta Air Lines and United Airlines suspended service between the US and Israel indefinitely, while Germany's Lufthansa and Air France also suspended flights.

The move came as it was announced that more Gaza children than Palestinian fighters are being killed in the offensive on Gaza, according to the latest United Nations statistics, despite Israel's claims to be waging a targeted military campaign

Gaza's health ministry said yesterday that 580 Palestinians had been killed, including 155 children.

The revelations came as a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed near Israel's main airport , wounding one Israeli and prompting all US and some European and Canadian airlines to cancel flights to Tel Aviv.

It was the latest blow to Israel on a day when it announced that an Israeli soldier went missing following a deadly battle in the Palestinian territory.

Last night, the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that, as of yesterday morning, 149 children had been killed, compared with 87 confirmed members of armed groups.

Even including unconfirmed combatant deaths, more children would still have died.

The Palestinian monitoring group Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights has given The Daily Telegraph the names of 132 of the dead, all under the age of 18.

In addition, Save the Children said almost a third of those injured were children. Less than a quarter of all casualties are thought to be Hamas militants.

"This is why we described the ongoing operation as a war on children," said Osama Damo, a Save the Children official in Gaza. Dr Ashraf Al-Qidra, a health ministry spokesman, said that 84 women were also among the dead and a total of 3,650 people had been wounded. Yesterday, an air strike destroyed six floors of Salam Tower in the centre of Gaza City, killing at least 11 people including Ibrahim Al-Kilani, a professor of engineering, his wife and their five children.

All had earlier fled from Shejaiya, where more than 70 people died in the biggest Israeli bombardment of the war on Sunday.

The impact of the conflict on children has been brought home in part by social media, which has streamed distressing photographs of small, mutilated corpses around the world. One incident, in which four boys were killed while playing football on a beach, was particularly striking, partly because journalists had been playing with them shortly beforehand and witnessed what had happened.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that investigations of cases where there were similar casualties with no apparent military objective suggested Israel had committed war crimes. "Israeli forces' failure to direct attacks at a military target violates the laws of war," a statement said.

"Israeli forces may also have knowingly or recklessly attacked people who were clearly civilians, such as young boys, and civilian structures, including a hospital – laws-of-war violations that are indicative of war crimes." Israel says that Hamas bears responsibility for civilian deaths because it launches rockets from and stores weapons in civilian areas.

"All civilian casualties are unintended by us, but intended by Hamas," Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said on Sunday. "They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause."

On Monday, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, compared the Hamas rocket attacks, responsible so far for two Israeli civilian deaths, to the Blitz and said the Israeli Defence Forces should win the Nobel Peace Prize "for fighting with unimaginable restraint".

Israel does issue warnings before some buildings are attacked. Inhabitants of a block on Omar Mukhtar Street in Gaza City received a telephone warning and all 200 were able to escape before it was destroyed at 5.30am.

Aid agencies point out that, Palestinians, enclosed by the security fence around Gaza, cannot flee. As of last night, 118,000 people were sheltering at UN schools and other facilities. The UN Relief and Works Agency said a girls' school housing refugees had suffered a "direct hit from Israeli shelling" yesterday. It was unclear if casualties had been inflicted. (©The Daily Telegraph)

Irish Independent

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