23 Jul 2014

UN: Israel may be guilty of war crimes

10:13 pm on 23 July 2014

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says Israel may have committed war crimes by killing civilians, and shelling houses and hospitals during its ongoing offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Navi Pillay condemned what she called indiscriminate fighting.

Navi Pillay condemned what she called indiscriminate fighting. Photo: AFP

Opening an emergency debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday, Navi Pillay condemned the indiscriminate firing of rockets and mortars by Palestinian militants into Israel.

Citing cases of Israeli air strikes and shelling that have hit houses and hospitals in the coastal Palestinian enclave, she said: "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," Ms 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, Reuters reports.

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

At least 649 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 31 Israelis have been killed in the past 15 days of fighting, officials say. The UN's children's agency UNICEF says at least one child an hour is being killed in Gaza.