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UN condemns ‘accidental’ bloodbath in Gaza

"The violation of human rights in this Territory is massive." So found the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, on a visit to Gaza this week.

She went to Beit Hanoun, a town in northern Gaza which the Israeli army shelled heavily on 8 November. Nineteen people were killed, all of them civilian. Israel says the attack was in error and has apologised.

An emergency session of UN General Assembly last week called for Israel to withdraw its troops and send a fact-finding mission to Beit Hanoun to investigate the attack. The UN Human Rights Council has already sent its own fact-finders.

More than 350 Palestinians — almost half of them civilians — have been killed by Israeli forces since late June, following the kidnap of an Israeli soldier.

Israel says Palestinian militants have fired more than 300 homemade rockets from Gaza into southern Israel this year, killing one woman.

The President of the UN General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa, condemned these arbitrary killings as breaches of international humanitatian law — that is, war crimes — and called on both sides to return to dialogue.

Seven countries voted against the GA resolution, including the United States and Australia, with 156 in favour. The US vetoed a similar text in the Security Council a few days before.

Arbour will visit areas affected by violence on both sides of the conflict and will meet with Palestinian and Israeli leaders during her 5-day visit. She says she hopes to keep alive "the conscience of the many who care about what happens in this part of the world."

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