Israel-Gaza violence may amount to war crimes, warns UN rights chief

As Israel, Gaza violence continued taking the death toll past 600, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon urged both warring sides to “stop fighting and start talking”.

Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha

Ramallah: As Israel, Gaza violence continued taking the death toll past 600, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon urged both warring sides to “stop fighting and start talking” and UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay warned against the possibility of war crimes.

Speaking at Human Rights Council Special Session on Gaza, Navi Pillay warned that civilians were not a legitimate target and attacking them might amount to war crimes.

"Respect for the right to life of civilians, including children, should be a foremost consideration. Not abiding by these principles may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity," said the UN rights chief.

Citing the UN estimate, she said that 74 percent of those killed were civilians and that the death toll climbed dramatically since Israel’s ground operations began on 17 July.

Yesterday, Addressing a press conference in Tel Aviv alongside Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Ban urged both parties to initiate a dialogue to address the root cause of the conflict.

“My message to Israelis and Palestinians is the same: Stop fighting. Start talking. And take on the root causes of the conflict, so we are not back to the same situation in another six months or a year,”  the UN chief said.

Ban cautioned Israel to  show "maximum restraint", saying "military action will not increase Israeli security in the longer term".

“We must address these underlying issues – including mutual recognition, occupation, despair and the denial of dignity – so people do not feel they have to resort to violence as a means of expressing their grievances.”

In response, Israeli PM said, "What grievance can we resolve for Hamas? Their grievance is that we exist."

The UN chief`s three-pronged message of “stop fighting, start talking and address root causes” came as diplomatic efforts towards brokering a truce intensified.

After his Egypt trip, where he thanked President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for its attempt to broker Gaza truce, UN chief was in Israel and later met Palestinian leaders in Ramallah.

US Secretary John Kerry too, is in Cairo for ceasefire talks.

Israel and Gaza have been fighting for two weeks now and the more than 600 Palestinians and 30 Israelis have been killed in a fortnight of violence.

Two Israeli soldiers were killed yesterday evening, the IDF posted on its twitter account.

In Gaza, where the death toll has hit 635, five including two children, were killed in Israeli shelling today, reported the AFP.

The latest bout of Israeli-Palestinian violence was triggered when a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and murdered in retaliation to the murder of three Israeli teenagers, who were allegedly killed by Hamas militants.

Since then Israel has stepped up offensive in Gaza, targeting more than a thousand Hamas targets.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8 to stop Hamas rockets falling into Israel. Last Thursday, Israel launched a ground offensive in Gaza to destroy tunnels used by the Hamas militants to infiltrate.

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