GENEVA: The United Nations on Wednesday launched an international inquiry into human rights violations and crimes that may have been committed by Israel during its military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
The UN Human Rights Council condemned the Israeli assault which it said had involved “disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks,” including aerial bombing of civilian areas, collective punishment, and the killing of more than 650 Palestinians.
At the end of an emergency session, the 47-member forum adopted a resolution presented by Palestinians by a vote of 29 states in favour, 1 against (the United States) with 17 abstentions (including all nine European Union members).
“We came here to try to achieve together with you at least minimum justice for children who are being dismembered, for women whose bodies are lying in the streets, to find some justice for those who are being exterminated,” said Ibrahim Khraishi, ambassador of the Palestinian observer mission to the UN in Geneva.
Israel and its ally United States rejected the probe, calling it one-sided and counterproductive amid efforts to clinch a ceasefire. Israel has observer status at the talks.
Israel ambassador Eviator Manor, in remarks before the vote, told the forum: “Why does this Council believe that naming and shaming Israel will get it anywhere?”
“Throughout the entire escalation of events, Israel has always acted with maximum restraint, fully committed to international law in general and the laws of armed conflict.”
Israel had established its own special commission of inquiry “with a scope beyond what is required under international and criminal law,” Manor said.
“Hamas is the aggressor. Hamas is the one committing war crimes ... Open your eyes to reality,” he said.
The Geneva 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 – Reuters
US renews ban on flights to Israel
Meanwhile, the US Federal Aviation Administration renewed its ban on American flights to Tel Aviv for another 24 hours, citing the “potentially hazardous situation” in Israel and Gaza.
It first imposed the ban on Tuesday, then renewed it at 1615 GMT with a Notice to Airmen, or NOTAM, that it said would be updated “within 24 hours.”
In a press statement, the FAA added that it is “working closely” with the Israeli government “to review the significant new information they have provided and determine whether potential risks to US civil aviation are mitigated so the agency can resolve concerns as quickly as possible.”
The FAA prohibited US airlines from going into or out of Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel's only international hub, after a Hamas rocket struck a neighbourhood to the north of the airport – AFP