UN says Israel and Hamas May Be Guilty of Violating International Humanitarian Laws

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay attends a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 2, 2013. (Reuters)
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay attends a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 2, 2013. (Reuters)

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, says the targeting of civilian infrastructure or the use of civilian structures for military purposes violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law.  She warns both Israel and Hamas may be guilty of war crimes in breaching these humanitarian principles.  U.N. figures show civilians, including many children and women, account for 74 percent of the more than 1,200 Palestinians who have been killed.  Nearly 60 Israelis have been killed, including two civilians.

Civilians are bearing the brunt of the war in Gaza, which is now into its 24th day.

Hundreds of civilian structures have been damaged and destroyed in the Palestinian enclave.  The U.N.’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, says homes, hospitals, U.N. schools, and life-sustaining infrastructure, such as the power station, water and sewage services in Gaza are protected under international law.

She says attacks against objects which are being used exclusively for humanitarian assistance may amount to a war crime.  She notes 250,000 Palestinians now are sheltering in schools run by UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.  She calls the shelling by Israel of these schools and the killing and wounding of civilians sheltering there as unconscionable.

She also condemns Hamas’ use of U.N. premises as a repository for weapons, calling this a flagrant violation of the neutrality of U.N. premises.

“Locating rockets in schools and hospitals or even launching these rockets from densely populated areas are violations of international humanitarian law.  But, it does not absolve the other party, that is Israel, from not itself observing its obligations under international humanitarian law,” she said.

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SOURCE: Lisa Schlein
Voice of America

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