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UN aid restarts, human rights chief calls for war crimes investigaton

Article published on the 2009-01-10 Latest update 2009-01-10 13:22 TU

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay(Photo: Reuters)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
(Photo: Reuters)

The United Nations has resumed aid distribution in the Gaza Strip after a promise from Israel to guarantee the security of its personnel. UN humanitarian chief Navi Pillay on Friday called for an investigation into possible violations of humanitarian law during Israel's operation in the territory, saying that some incidents may constitute war crimes.

Aid distribution started again Saturday during a partially-observed three-hour ceasefire.

In a joint satement late Friday, the UN's Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and its Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process said they had received "credible assurances that the security of UN personnel, installations and humanitarian operations would be fully respected".

UNRWA stopped distributing aid on Thursday after a UN convoy was hit by two Israeli tank shells, killing one contract driver and wounding another.

UN officials say that 80 per cent of Gaza's 1.5 million population are in dire need of assistance.

At a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillai called for "credible, independent and transparent investigations" into possible human rights violations during the conflict.

"I remind this council that violations of international humanitarian law may constitute war crimes for which individual criminal responsibility may be invoked," she said, making special mention of the deaths of 30 Palestinians in one house in the town of Zeitoun this week.

The session is expected to decide on Monday whether to adopt a resolution condemning the Israeli offensive, tabled by Cuba, Egypt and Pakistan.

Israel has refused to say when it will end its offensive.

"This will end when Israel is able to provide that security to its civilians and basically it means that Hamas ceases absolute violence against Israeli civilians," says government spokesperson Daniel Seaman. "When that happens we won’t need the United Nations, Israel, who left the Gaza Strip two and a half years ago, will have no need to be in the Gaza Strip."

Reaction: Israeli government spokesperson Daniel Seaman

10/01/2009 by Philip Turle

Eight members of the same family, including a 12-year-old child, were killed by Israeli shells in Jabaliya, in the north of the Gaza Strip, on Saturday, according to Palestinian medical sources.

Gaza Emergency Services Chief Dr Mouawiya Hassanein says that 22 people were killed on Saturday morning, bringing the estimated death toll to 821 Palestinians, including 235 children. Thirteen Israelis, ten of them soldiers, are reported to have died.

Indonesia and France are "unsatisfied" that the UN Security Council turned down a resolution calling for a ceasefire, according to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who telephoned France's Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday.

"We appreciate that France, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, keeps searching for a solution for the Palestine and Israel problem," Yudhoyono said, adding that the two countries agreed that a new resolution should be tabled.