UNHRC Holds Emergency Session As Palestine Accuses Israel Of War Crimes

israel ambassador to un
Israel's Ambassador to the U.N. Eviatar Manor pauses during the 21st Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories at the United Nations Office in Geneva July 23, 2014. reuters/Denis Balibouse

Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that there is a “strong possibility” that Israel violated international laws during its assault on the Gaza Strip, which continued for the 16th day on Wednesday.

“A few examples where there seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes. Every one of these incidents must be properly and independently investigated," Pillay reportedly said in opening remarks while addressing an emergency session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, or UNHRC, in Geneva.

The meeting of the 47-member council, which is the United Nations’ top human rights forum, was called by Arab and other Islamic nations to vote on a resolution officially condemning Israel for its alleged “violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The draft resolution, lodged by Palestine, which is an observer state in the U.N., calls for the international community to "urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry." 

Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, addressing the UNHRC session, reiterated the need to investigate war crimes allegedly committed by Israel during its latest attack on Gaza, and urged world powers to intervene in the ongoing conflict.

“Israel is perpetrating huge crimes in Gaza. It is killing whole families, battering residential areas and targeting journalists,” he said, stating that Israel “must be held accountable for its crimes.”

658 Palestinians and 31 Israelis, including 29 Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, soldiers have been killed so far, according to Al Jazeera.

Israel's envoy to the UNHRC, Eviatar Manor, on the other hand, said that the UNHRC’s decision to hold the special session was “misguided, ill-conceived and counter-productive to cease-fire efforts.” He also said that the IDF made “great efforts” to minimize civilian casualties, alleging that Hamas fighters were the ones guilty of war crimes.

The UNHRC will vote on the draft resolution later today. If the resolution is passed, the inquiry commission’s mandate and composition will also need to be determined by the council.

Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse reported that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Tel Aviv to meet with the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in yet another effort to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

"We have certainly made some steps forward, but there is still work to be done," Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem Wednesday.

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