At an emergency debate held today at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the military actions in the Gaza Strip, saying that war crimes may have been committed and that not enough has been done to protect civilians.
“There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” Ms Pillay said.
She also condemned the indiscriminate attacks of the Hamas on Israel.
“The principles of distinction and precaution are clearly not being observed during such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups,” she told the UN Human Rights Council.
Despite her condemnation of Hamas attacks on Israel, Ms Pillay also views Israel’s actions in Gaza as disproportionate.
Referring to a 16 July Israeli air strike that killed children playing on a beach in Gaza, Ms Pillay said “the disregard for international humanitarian law and for the right to life was shockingly evident”.
Israel launched its offensive on 8 July with the declared objective of stopping rocket fire from Gaza.
At least 649 Palestinians and 31 Israelis have been killed in the past 15 days of fighting, officials say.
The UN says about 74% of those killed in Gaza are civilians, with medical clinics among the facilities hit by air strikes.
“Civilians in Gaza have no safe place to go as 44% of the land has been declared a ‘no-go zone’ by the Israeli army,” the assistant secretary-general at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
Meanwhile UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Mr Kerry are in the region and have both called for an immediate end to hostilities and for the underlying causes of the conflict to be addressed.
“We have certainly made some steps forward. There is still work to be done,” said John Kerry.