Israel and Hamas committing war crimes, U.N. official says

Jul 31, 2014 11:47 AM by CBS/AP

GENEVA -- The U.N.'s top human rights official is accusing Israel and Hamas militants of committing war crimes in the latest Gaza war.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says that by placing and firing rockets within heavily populated areas both sides are committing "a violation of international humanitarian law, therefore a war crime."

Pillay also told reporters Thursday in Geneva that she sees "a recurrence of the very acts" from the 2009 Gaza war in which the U.N. concluded Israel deliberately targeted civilians and might have committed war crimes, along with Hamas.

More than 1,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 59 Israelis, mainly soldiers, have been killed in the latest violence.

Meanwhile, Valerie Amos, the U.N. humanitarian chief, is calling for daily "humanitarian pauses" in Gaza until a long-term cease-fire is reached between Israel and Hamas to deliver relief to hundreds of thousands in need, rescue the injured and give civilians a reprieve from war.

Amos told the Security Council by videoconference that the world has watched "in horror the desperation of children and civilians that have come under attack" in Gaza. She said over 80 percent of the Palestinians killed are civilians, including 251 children.

Pierre Krahenbuhl, head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, told the council by phone from Gaza City that conditions are dire and UNRWA is overwhelmed with more than 220,000 people who have sought refuge at U.N. facilities.

Israel has the military high ground in the ongoing fight against the Palestinian militants, reports CBS News' Barry Petersen, but there has been broad condemnation for the Israelis' alleged pre-dawn attack Wednesday morning on a U.N. school in the densely populated Palestinian territory.

According to U.N. officials, three Israeli artillery rounds slammed into the facility, which was crowded with more than 3,000 refugees seeking shelter.

Palestinian officials say President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking broad political support, including from rival Hamas, before making any attempt to press possible war crimes charges against Israel.

Abbas is under pressure to turn the International Criminal Court on the issue, as the death toll in Gaza rises.

Independent legislator Mustafa Barghouti revealed Thursday that Abbas asked for and received written support for such a move from the heads of PLO factions this week. Participants in the meeting say Abbas also wants written support from the Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups. They are vulnerable to war crimes charges because of their indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel.

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