GENEVA/JERUSALEM: Israel may have committed war crimes by killing civilians and shelling houses and hospitals during its two-week-old offensive in the Gaza Strip, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Wednesday.
Pillay, opening an emergency debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, also condemned the indiscriminate firing of rockets and mortars by Palestinian militants into Israel.
Citing cases Israeli air strikes and shelling hitting houses and hospitals in the coastal enclave, she said, "These are just a few examples where there seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”
"Every one of these incidents must be properly and independently investigated," Pillay said in some of her strongest comments on the conflict.
The Geneva rights forum convened the special one-day session at the request of the Palestinians, Egypt and Pakistan. Israel, which accuses the Council of bias, boycotted the Geneva forum for 20 months, resuming cooperation in October. Its main ally the United States, a member state, has also said Israel is unfairly singled out.
During the session at the UN Human Rights Council, Pakistan called for the intensification of international diplomatic efforts for an immediate ceasefire and revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks aimed at addressing the root cause of the Middle East conflict.
"The relentless bloodshed must be stopped and peace talks initiated," Ambassador Masood Khan, Pakistan's permanent representative to the UN, told the Security Council on Tuesday while condemning Israeli aggression in Gaza.
Expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people, he said that a political solution must be achieved.
"International diplomacy initiated by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, (US) Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian leadership must be intensified," he said.
Khan added that a ceasefire proposal should not be spurned and the two-state solution should be pursued.
"An independent, viable and geographically contiguous Palestinian State, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital, living side by side with Israel, is the only way to guarantee peace and stability in the region," Khan suggested.
Furthermore, he demanded the immediate cessation of Israeli attacks, end to the blockade of Gaza, opening of its border and release of Palestinian prisoners.
Gaza truce efforts
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday some progress had been made in efforts to bring an end to 16 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
"We have certainly made some steps forward. There is still work to be done," Kerry said shortly after arriving in Jerusalem for a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
He declined to give any details.