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UN envoy says Gaza siege breaks human rights law

Written by: Staff

GENEVA, July 5 (Reuters) A UN human rights envoy today accused Israel of violating the ''most fundamental norms'' of international human rights law with its siege of the Gaza Strip.

Israel's military action, launched after an Israeli soldier was kidnapped by Palestinian militants, was a ''disproportionate use of force against civilians,'' said John Dugard, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory.

''It is clear that Israel is in violation of the most fundamental norms of humanitarian law and human rights law,'' Dugard said in an address to a special session of the UN Human Rights Council.

At the insistence of Arab and Muslim states, the newly formed council is holding a special session to debate their call for the UN's top human rights forum to censure Israel and demand a halt to its military assault in Gaza.

A draft resolution from the 57-country Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) accuses Israel of arbitrarily arresting Palestinian leaders and of destroying bridges and water and power plants.

It also requests that Dugard lead an urgent mission to the region and report back ''on the Israeli human rights violations.'' A simple majority of the 47 members will be required tomorrow for adoption of the resolution, the first involving a single country to be presented to the Council since it replaced the discredited Human Rights Commission earlier this year.

US ambassador to the UN in Geneva Warren Tichenor expressed ''regret'' at the resolution, saying it focused on only one side of the situation and made no mention of the ''failure of the Palestinian Authority government to denounce terror''.

Israel's ambassador Itzhak Levanon rejected the allegations and said the OIC's sole aim was to ''villify'' his country.

The current crisis was not provoked by Israel but by an attack by ''Palestinian terrorist groups with the aim of sowing death'', he said.

Israel quit Gaza last year after 38 years of occupation, but launched its offensive following the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid from Gaza on June 25.

Dugard said people in Gaza were without water, food was scarce and medicines were running out. More than 1,500 rounds of artillery were showered on Gaza over the past week, while sonic booms terrorised the population, he said.

''Israel's conduct is morally indefensible,'' said the envoy who last visited the area in June and made his report at the request of the OIC.


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