UN Human Rights Council condemns IDF actions in Gaza
Resolution proclaims IDF inflicts collective punishment on Palestinians, calls on Gazans to halt rocket fire.
The United Nations Human Rights Council condemned Israel's military action in Gaza at the behest of Pakistan and other Muslim states on Thursday.
The UN's top human rights body agreed on a resolution proclaiming that the Israel Defense Forces incursions into the Palestinian territory inflicted collective punishment on the civilian population. The resolution also calls for Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza into Israel to be stopped.
More than 120 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed over the past two weeks in military actions and rocket strikes.
The 47-member rights body approved the resolution by 33 votes to one after a debate on the situation in Gaza. Thirteen countries abstained.
Russia, China and India supported the resolution. European countries abstained. Canada voted against.
Earlier Thursday, Muslim countries accused Israel of committing war crimes and called on the Human Rights Council to condemn Israel's collective punishment of the residents of Gaza.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), presented a draft resolution which Israel's envoy promptly dismissed as "political posturing."
The text, which was also sponsored by the League of Arab States, demands an immediate halt to IDF attacks on the Gaza Strip as well as the firing of crude rockets by Palestinian militants into southern Israel.
It condemns persistent IDF attacks on Gaza and accuses Israel of "inflicting collective punishment against the civilian population, which constitutes a war crime."
"Israel has resorted to use of disproportionate force, deliberate destruction of infrastructure and killing of civilians," Pakistan's ambassador Masood Khan told the UN Human Rights Council.
He said that more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed in less than one year, including 125 in the last week when Israel conducted a sweep against Palestinian rocket crews.
Israeli forces withdrew from northern Gaza on Monday but sporadic fighting has persisted.
The Human Rights Council, whose 47 members are holding a four-week session to examine violations worldwide, is expected to adopt the resolution later on Thursday, diplomats said.
Since being set up in June 2006, the Council has rebuked Israel three times for abuses in the Palestinian territories.
Israel's envoy Itzhak Levanon, recalling previous "one-sided resolutions", accused Muslim countries of abusing the forum.
But Palestinian ambassador Mohammad Abu-Koash said Israel needed to be held accountable for committing "atrocities against an unprotected civilian population once again left at the mercy of its occupier that doesn't hesitate to use F-16s to pound homes and bury whole families under the debris."
"The right of self-defense is not an exclusive Israeli right. It is a Palestinian right too," Abu-Koash said.
The European Union, which has seven member countries on the Council, said rocket attacks on Israeli areas had to cease.
"Palestinian factions in Gaza must stop these attacks ... and make every effort to fight terrorism," it said, also urging Israel to "exercise the utmost restraint" in its self-defence.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour expressed alarm at the magnitude of violence on both sides of the conflict and at Israel's "disproportionate use of force."
"The protection of human rights and in particular of civilian lives cannot await the outcome of a political process," the former UN war crimes prosecutor said in a speech.
Arbour called on both Israeli and Palestinian authorities to investigate civilian killings and to make sure perpetrators are held accountable.
In a report on Thursday, British aid and rights groups said that Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip had created the worst humanitarian crisis since the Israeli occupation began in 1967.
The coalition including CARE International said that 1.5 million Palestinians faced food shortages, crumbling health services, and a water and sewage system close to collapse.