The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday launched a commission of inquiry into alleged Israeli war crimes in its current Gaza offensive, backing Palestinian efforts to have Israel held up to international scrutiny.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office fiercely condemned the UN council's decision as a "travesty and should be rejected by decent people everywhere."
Meeting in Geneva, the 46-member council backed a Palestinian-drafted resolution by 29 votes, with supports from Arab and Muslim countries, China, Russia, Latin American and African nations.
The United States was the only member to vote against the resolution, while European countries abstained.
The last such investigation faced by Israel was the so-called Goldstone Committee, which harshly criticized Israel's conduct during its 2008 hostilies with Hamas in Gaza.
Netanyahu's office blasted the rights council for placing its criticism in the wrong place, investigating Israel rather than Hamas and "sending a message to Hamas" that the use of human shields is effective strategy."
"The decision today by the HRC is a travesty and should be rejected by decent people everywhere," Netanyahu's office said in a statement released immediately after the council's decision. "Rather than investigate Hamas, which is committing a double war crime by firing rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians, the HRC calls for an investigation of Israel, which has gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm's way, including by dropping leaflets, making phone calls and sending text messages."
"The HRC should be launching an investigation into Hamas's decision to turn hospitals into military command centers, use schools as weapons depots and place missile batteries next to playgrounds, private homes and mosques," Netanyahu's office added.
"By failing to condemn Hamas's systematic use of human shields and by blaming Israel for the deaths that are caused by this grotesque human shields policy, the HRC is sending a message to Hamas and terror organizations everywhere that using civilians as human shields is an effective strategy," Netanyahu's office added.
Earlier on Wednesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told an emergency meeting in Geneva that incidents during the fighting in Gaza raised concerns about alleged war crimes on the part of Israel and should be investigated.
Speaking at the meeting, Israel's envoy to the UNHRC, Eviatar Manor, charged that the UN Human Rights Council "failed to protect the human rights of Israelis."
Manor went on to say that the residents of Gaza were not Israel's enemies and that Israel was committed to international law. He charged the council of "adding fuel to the fire."