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UN’s Bachelet: Israel’s Gaza strikes may constitute ‘war crimes’

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UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet says Israeli attacks resulted in extensive civilian deaths and major destruction in besieged enclave, home to two million people.

The United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has said Israel’s recent attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip that killed more than 200 Palestinians may constitute “war crimes” if they are shown to be disproportionate.

Bachelet’s comments on Thursday came as she opened a special session of the UN Human Rights Council, called at the request of Pakistan – on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – and Palestine.

The UN official said she had seen no evidence that civilian buildings in Gaza hit by Israeli fighter jets were being used for military purposes.

“If found disproportionate, such attacks might constitute war crimes,” Bachelet told the 47-member Geneva forum. She also urged Hamas, which runs Gaza, to refrain from firing rockets indiscriminately on Israeli territory.

The 11-day offensive on the Gaza Strip, which began on May 10, killed at least 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

At least 12 people, including three foreign workers and two children, were killed in Israel by rockets fired by Hamas and other armed groups from Gaza during the same period.

“Although reportedly targeting members of armed groups and their military infrastructure, the Israeli attacks resulted in extensive civilian deaths and injuries, as well as large-scale destruction and damage to civilian objects,” said Bachelet, highlighting the scale of the destruction in Gaza, which has been under a 14-year-old Israeli blockade.

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