Geneva/Jerusalem, July 23 IANS | 8 months ago

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay Wednesday warned that Israeli military attacks on Gaza could constitute a war crime, as the death toll in Israel's two-week offensive on the Palestinian enclave rose to over 650, mostly civilians.

Pillay told a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that independent reports on the Israeli attacks indicated "a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes".

The top UN official, who also branded as "unacceptable" the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against Israel, stressed that "the houses of civilians are not legitimate targets unless they are used or contribute to military purposes".

"When in doubt, the houses of civilians are not legitimate targets," she said.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to end the conflict continued, as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was expected to travel later to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Kerry landed at an Israeli military airport after the US and European countries suspended all flights to Tel Aviv for 24 hours citing security reasons as a Palestinian rocket fell near the Ben Gurion Airport.

The US secretary of state is also expected to meet in Jerusalem with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has traveled to the area in an attempt to secure a humanitarian truce that will allow negotiations for a permanent ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas.

Since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge July 8 to end rocket attacks from Gaza, more than 650 Palestinians have been killed and more than 4,000 have been injured, while 31 Israelis have lost their lives, 29 of them troops.

Gaza Emergency spokesperson Ashraf Al Qedra warned Wednesday that the death toll was expected to rise as heavy Israeli shelling continued, especially in Khan Yunis, in the south of the Strip.

According to the UN, at least 110,000 people have been internally displaced in Gaza, double the number expected by the UN Relief and Works Agency, which has opened 69 school-shelters for the Palestinian refugees.

(Posted on 23-07-2014)

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