reuters/ Denis Balibouse
Update as of 1:09 a.m. EDT: At least 23 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip Thursday morning, taking the total death toll so far in Gaza to 775, according to Al Jazeera. Thirty-two Israeli soldiers have been killed so far and one more has been reported missing and is believed to be dead, the report added.
Israel on Wednesday strongly criticized a decision by the United Nations Human Rights Council, or UNHRC, to launch an independent inquiry into allegations of war crimes committed by Israel in its ongoing offensive in Gaza.
In a statement issued by the prime minister’s office Wednesday, Benjamin Netanyahu said that the UNHRC decision was “a travesty” and that it should be “rejected by decent people everywhere.”
“Rather than investigate Hamas, which is committing a double war crime by firing rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians, the UNHRC calls for an investigation of Israel, which has gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way, including dropping leaflets, making phone calls and sending text messages,” the statement said.
A total of 720 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed so far as Israel’s assault on Gaza entered the 17th day Thursday. Two Israeli civilians and 32 Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, soldiers have also been killed in the same period. According to The Nation, a Bangkok-based news agency, a Thai national who was employed as a farm worker in Israel has also been killed.
The 47-member UNHRC council, on Wednesday, adopted the draft resolution presented by the Palestinian Authority, which has an observer status at the United Nations, calling for the international community to "urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry."
The resolution lodged with the UNHRC by the Palestinian Authority also condemned "the widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms" in the Gaza Strip.
Twenty-nine countries voted in favour of the investigation while 17, including many European Union countries, abstained. The U.S. was the only country that voted against the adoption of the resolution.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman also strongly condemned the UNHRC decision, accusing it of anti-Semitism and alleging that the council had been turned into a “terrorists rights council,” the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.
Wednesday also saw a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at brokering a truce between Hamas and Israel.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and said that there was a need for "not just a ceasefire but a sustainable process of going forward, which is very important" according to an Al Jazeera report.