Gaza,23 July-2014(Al Jazeera): The UN Human Rights Council has voted to launch an independent inquiry into Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, backing efforts by the Palestinians to hold the Israel up to international scrutiny.
Israel’s offensive on Gaza has killed more than 750 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 34 Israelis [AFP]
The decision on Wednesday in Geneva came hours after the UN rights chief, Navi Pillay, said that Israel’s military actions could amount to war crimes, as Israel continued pounding the enclave for a 16th day.
The inquiry was requested by Palestine – which has observer status in the UN – and adopted by the 47-member forum by a vote of 29 states in favour, 17 abstentions, including some EU members, and one against – the US.
Al Jazeera’s Lauren Taylor, reporting from Geneva, said that the president of the council would now have to agree who would lead the investigation before it was put into effect.
Even then, the investigation could face opposition from Israel.
Hours before the vote, Pillay had told the emergency session: “There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes.
Pillay also condemned indiscriminate rocket attacks by fighters of Hamas, the group that controls Gaza.
She said the killing of civilians in Gaza, especially children, raised concerns over Israel’s precautions and respect for proportionality.
Israel has killed more than 650 Gazans and injured thousands. Two Israeli civilians have been killed by rocket fire into Israel, and 32 Israeli soldiers have died in the assault on Gaza. One soldier is listed as missing and believed to be dead.
Pillay added that Israeli civilians also had a right to live without fear of rocket attacks.
“Once again, 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 said.
The resolution lodged by Palestine condemned “the widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
The resolution also called on the international community to “urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry” to investigate “all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip”.
The aim, it said, was to “establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and to identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular, on accountability measures, all with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring that those responsible are held accountable, and on ways and means to protect civilians against any further assaults”.