Middle East News

Israel, Hamas Committing War Crimes: UN Official

Both Israel and Hamas are committing war crimes in the ongoing attacks in the Gaza strip, a United Nations official said on Thursday.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the latest violence in the Palestinian territory and said that placing bombs and firing rockets within densely populated areas by either side is “a violation of international humanitarian law, therefore a war crime,” the Associated Press reported.

Pillay also likened the current situation to the 2009 Gaza war where the U.N. concluded that Israel deliberately attacked civilians and possibly committed war crimes along with Hamas. She said the ongoing violence is “a recurrence of the very acts” that occurred in the previous conflict.

At least 1,300 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, and 59 Israelis, mostly soldiers, have been killed since the war broke out three weeks ago. Talks of a ceasefire have been rejected by both sides, even during the observance of the Muslim Edi holiday.

The death toll is expected to increase as both parties refuse to back down in spite of growing international outrage over the loss of so many innocent lives, particularly children. Indignation was further intensified by Israel’s recent shelling of Jabalaya, the UN’s largest refugee camp in Gaza, adding to the civilian casualties, an act the Israelis have vehemently denied.

Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty International, criticized Israel’s little or no effort to minimize civilian casualties, CNN reported.

“If the strike on this school was the result of Israeli artillery fire it would constitute an indiscriminate attack and a likely war crime,” Luther said. “Artillery should never be used against targets in crowded civilian areas and its use in such a manner would never be considered a ‘surgical’ strike.”

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