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Arab-Muslim bloc seeks UN censure of Israel on Gaza

Written by: Staff
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GENEVA, July 4 (Reuters) Arab and Muslim states will demand the UN's top human rights forum should censure Israel for alleged abuses against Palestinians and that it halt a military assault in Gaza, according to a draft text obtained by Reuters today.

Tunisia, acting on behalf of the 57-country Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), submitted the resolution to the UN Human Rights Council ahead of its special session on the territories -- scheduled for today at the OIC's request.

The OIC draft text accuses Israel of arbitrarily arresting Palestinian leaders and of destroying bridges, and water and power plants.

A simple majority would be required for adoption by the 47-member state forum in Geneva. Diplomats expected the debate to continue on Thursday and the vote to be close.

The forum, which has moral authority, succeeded the widely-discredited UN Commission on Human Rights, but has already been criticised by Israel and the United States of singling out the Jewish state.

Earlier today, Israel warned the governing Palestinian faction Hamas that the ''sky will fall on them'' if they harm an Israeli soldier, captured 10 days ago, after a deadline passed for the Jewish state to accept a prisoner exchange.

The OIC text expresses concern at alleged breaches by Israel of international humanitarian and human rights law, including ''the arbitrary arrest of Palestinian ministers, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and other officials'' as well as the arbitrary arrest of other civilians.

It ''demands that Israel, the occupying power, end its military operations in the occupied Palestinian territory ...

and refrain from imposing collective punishment on Palestinian civilians.'' The draft resolution requests that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour be sent on an urgent visit to the region and report back on ''Israeli human rights violations.'' It also asks that John Dugard, an independent UN investigator on human rights in the occupied territories, should participate in the special session.

The Council, which wound up its inaugural two-week session last Friday, agreed to keep Israel in the dock for alleged abuses in the territories, overcoming U.S.-led opposition to pursuing an ''unbalanced agenda''.

The US delegation has observer status at the forum after choosing not to stand for election.

REUTERS SHB2341

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