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Israel Committed Human Rights Violations In Gaza: UN Investigators

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Investigators reporting to the United Nations Human Rights Council Monday enumerated a number of human rights violations committed by Israel during its Gaza incursion, including the specific targeting of occupied civilian homes and the use of children as human shields. As Reuters reports:

The accusations came in reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council which also called for an urgent end to Israeli restrictions on humanitarian supplies to Gaza and a full international investigation into the conflict.

"Civilian targets, particularly homes and their occupants, appear to have taken the brunt of the attacks, but schools and medical facilities have also been hit," said one report by Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

Coomaraswamy also revealed details of one incident in particular wherein Israeli Defense Forces used an 11 year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield. According to the AP:

The Israeli Defence force ordered the boy to walk in front of soldiers being fired on in the Gaza neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa and enter buildings before them, said the UN Secretary-General's envoy for protecting children in armed conflict.

The boy also was told to open the bags of Palestinians -- presumably to protect the soldiers from possible explosives -- before being released at the entrance to a hospital, Radhika Coomaraswamy said.

She said the Jan. 15 incident, after Israeli tanks had rolled into the neighbourhood and during "intense operations," was a violation of Israeli and international law.

Also reporting to the Human Rights Council Monday was Richard Falk, admittedly a long-time critic of Israel, who most recently has focused on the Gaza operation's legality. According to the BBC:

Because Mr Falk was unable to enter the Palestinian territories, his latest report focuses on the legality of Israel's January operation in Gaza in general, rather than on specific cases or claims that disproportionate force was used.

Mr Falk said that in order to determine if the war was legal, it was necessary to assess whether Israeli forces could differentiate between civilian and military targets in Gaza.

"If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful, and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law," Mr Falk's report says.

However, this thread of reports has been rebuffed by Israel as part of a larger pattern to demonize the Jewish state. According to the Reuters report:

The overall report was criticized in the 47-nation Council by Israel's ambassador Aharon Leshno Yar, who said it "willfully ignores and downplays the terrorist and other threats we face," and the use by Hamas of human shields.

Leshno Yar said the 43-page document was part of a pattern of "demonizing Israel" in the Council -- where an informal bloc of Islamic and African nations usually backed by Russia, China and Cuba has a built-in majority.

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