Hamas ‘ready’ to accept truce if Israel ends seige in Gaza
UN Human Rights Council condemn the Israeli assault for ‘disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks’
A Jewish worshipper takes part in a special prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City for the well-being of Israeli soldiers in Gaza today. Photograph: Siegfried Modola/ Reuters
Light streaks and smoke trails are seen as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel today. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said he was ready to accept a humanitarian truce in Gaza where the Islamist group is fighting an Israeli military offensive, but would not agree to a full ceasefire until the terms had been negotiated.
“Everyone wanted us to accept a ceasefire and then negotiate for our rights, we reject this and we reject it again today,” he said at a news conference in Qatar.
But he said Hamas “will not close the door” to a humanitarian truce if Israel ended its siege of Gaza.
“We are very interested to have a humanitarian truce as we did last Thursday. We need the calm for a few hours to evacuate the wounded and assist in the relief... This means a real truce backed by a real relief programme offered to the people of Gaza,” he said at a news conference in Qatar.
The leader of the Islamist group, which controls Gaza, asked for the international community to help bring medicine, fuel and other supplies into the territory.
The United Nations today launched an international inquiry into human rights violations and crimes that may have been committed by Israel during its military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
The UN Human Rights Council condemned the Israeli assault which it said had involved “disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks”, including aerial bombing of civilian areas, collective punishment, and the killing of more than 650 Palestinians.
At the end of an emergency session, the 47-member forum adopted a resolution presented by Palestinians by a vote of 29 states in favour, 1 against (the United States) with 17 abstentions (including all nine European Union members). “We came here to try to achieve together with you at least minimum justice for children who are being dismembered, for women whose bodies are lying in the streets, to find some justice for those who are being exterminated,” said Ibrahim Khraishi, ambassador of the Palestinian observer mission to the UN in Geneva.
Israel and its ally United States rejected the probe, calling it one-sided and counterproductive amid efforts to clinch a ceasefire.
Israel has observer status at the talks. Israel ambassador Eviator Manor, in remarks before the vote, told the forum: “Why does this Council believe that naming and shaming Israel will get it anywhere?
“Throughout the entire escalation of events, Israel has always acted with maximum restraint, fully committed to international law in general and the laws of armed conflict.”
Israel had established its own special commission of inquiry “with a scope beyond what is required under international and criminal law,” Mr Manor said. “Hamas is the aggressor. Hamas is the one committing war crimes ... Open your eyes to reality,” he said.
Possible war crimes
UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay said that Israel might have committed war crimes by killing civilians and shelling houses and hospitals during its offensive in
Gaza that began on July 8th. She also condemned the firing of rockets and mortars by Palestinian militants into Israel, saying such acts also constitute breaches of international law.
Ms Pillay, citing cases Israeli air strikes and shelling hitting houses and hospitals in the crowded coastal enclave, said: “These are just 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,” she said.
Ms Pillay, a former UN war crimes judge, said that any warning by Israel to Gaza residents ahead of strikes must be “clear, credible and allow sufficient time for people to react”.
USsecretary of state
Gaza fighting continued to rage on today, displacing thousands more Palestinians in the battered territory as US secretary of state John Kerry said indirect truce talks between Israel and Hamas had made some progress.
The Geneva forum convened the special one-day session at the request of the Palestinians, Egypt and Pakistan.
Israel, which accuses the Council of bias, boycotted the Geneva forum for 20 months, resuming cooperation in October.
Its envoy Mr Manor defended Israel’s air strikes and ground assault on Gaza as being necessary to defend the Israeli people.
The Council “cannot be supportive of an organisation that is no different than al-Qaeda, Isis (Islamic State), Boko Haram, Hezbollah and other extreme radical Islamist organisations that negate the very essence of human rights,” Mr Manor said.
Palestinian foreign minister Riad al-Malki hit back, accusing Israeli forces of perpetrating “heinous crimes” by destroying whole neighbourhoods and killing entire families.
The UN aid agency OCHA said at least five entire families, with 36 people, had been killed in the past few days.
The United States said that Mr Kerry was seeking to secure an immediate ceasefire based on the Nov. 2012 ceasefire agreement.
US ambassador Keith Harper, calling for a vote, said that the resolution was “destructive” and a “political and biased instrument”. “Once again, this Council fails to address the situation in Israel and in the Palestinian territories with any semblance of balance.
There is no mention of indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas into Israel or the tunnels used to cause mayhem,” he said.
Israel tried today to get US and European commercial flights to Tel Aviv restored after some carriers suspended services, insisting its main airport there was safe despite being targeted by Palestinian rockets.
Israeli authorities emphasised the success of the Iron Dome interceptor system in protecting Ben Gurion Airport from rockets fired by militants in the Gaza Strip, as well as a precautionary narrowing of air corridors since fighting erupted on July 8th.
However, Israel also said foreign airlines could use an alternative airport deep in its southern desert.
About 30 foreign airlines have suspended flights to Ben Gurion.
Three of them were American, acting in accordance with a Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) ban issued yesterday, which was extended by 24 hours on today.
Turkish Airlines also extended suspension of its flights for another 24 hours. The FAA said it was responding to a Palestinian rocket that struck a building 2 km from the airport.
Israel said the damage was from debris left by that its Iron Dome system had shot down.
“Our airport is safe. Our airport is secure. And we hope the American carriers will be flying to Israel soon,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in an interview on MSNBC.
However, most European airlines have followed suit, sharply reducing traffic through Ben Gurion, a mid-sized airport that normally bustles during the summer.