UN: Israeli actions could amount to ‘war crimes’

Abbas endorses Hamas’ demands for a ceasefire in Gaza, where officials said 624 Palestinians have been killed

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The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights declared on Wednesday that Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip could amount to war crimes, Agence France Presse reported.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas endorsed Hamas’ demands for a ceasefire in Gaza, where officials said 624 Palestinians have been killed in 15 days of fighting, Reuters news agency reported.

"There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes" human rights chief Navi Pillay said in an emergency session convened to discuss the Israeli offensive in Gaza in New York.

Pillay also condemned indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas, explaining that Israeli children and civilians have the right to live without fear of rocket attacks.

“Once again, the principles of distinction and precaution are clearly not being observed during such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups," she said.

Abbas, in a move that could effectively turn the Palestinian president into the main interlocutor for a Gaza truce, endorsed Hamas’ demands for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“The Gaza demands of stopping the aggression and lifting the blockade in all its forms are the demands of the entire Palestinian people and they represent the goal that the Palestinian leadership has dedicated all its power to achieve," senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo was quoted as saying by Reuters in Ramallah.

Abbas heads the PLO.

Abed Rabbo also stated that Abbas pushed for a truce followed by a five-day negotiation period.

Nor Hamas or Israel has responded to the PLO’s statements.

Hamas rejected Saturday a truce negotiated by Egyptian officials because it ignored the Islamist movement’s terms.

The current Egyptian government is believed to distrust Hamas due to its links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Reuters says was a reason behind complications to the ceasefire. Since then, Hamas has turned to Turkey and Qatar to mediate a deal with the Israelis.

(With AFP and Reuters)