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UN names panel for probe into war crimes in Gaza





Geneva: The United Nations on Monday named three experts to an international commission of inquiry into possible human rights violations and war crimes committed by both sides during Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

William Schabas, a Canadian professor of international law, will head the panel whose other members are Doudou Diene, a veteran UN human rights expert from Senegal, and Amal Alamuddin, a British-Lebanese lawyer engaged to be married to Hollywood actor George Clooney.

Military operations

The independent team will investigate "all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law ... in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014," the UN statement said.

A month of war, marked by Israeli air strikes on Gaza and rockets fired by Hamas fighters into
Israel, has killed 1,938 Palestinians and 67 Israelis while devastating wide tracts of densely populated Gaza.

The panel is due to report by March 2015 to the UN Human Rights Council. Israel has long accused the 47-member state forum of bias against it.

Navi Pillay, the top UN human rights official, said on July 31 she believed Israel was deliberately defying international law in its military offensive in Gaza and that world powers should hold it accountable for possible war crimes.

Israel has attacked homes, schools, hospitals, Gaza's only power plant and UN premises in apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions, said Pillay, a former UN war crimes judge.

Hamas fighters in Gaza have violated international humanitarian law by firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel, Pillay said.

Cairo talks

Meanwhile, in Cairo, Egyptian intelligence mediators threw themselves back into shuttle diplomacy that unravelled after rocket attacks breached the previous 72-hour truce on Friday.

They spent yesterday locked in talks with the Palestinian delegation and were to relay their demands to Israeli negotiators, who returned to Cairo three days after abandoning the talks when Palestinian rocket attacks resumed on southern Israel.

Egypt has urged the warring sides to use the new lull to reach "a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire," after efforts to extend a similar truce last week collapsed into a firestorm of violence.

Israel insists that the security of millions of its citizens subject to constant fear from Palestinian rocket attacks be guaranteed.

Hamas, the de facto power in Gaza, has conditioned its acceptance of any permanent agreement on Israel lifting its eight-year blockade on Gaza. "In the case of Israeli procrastination or continued aggression, Hamas is ready with other Palestinian factions to resist on the ground and politically," its exiled leader Khaled Meshaal said in Doha.

And an Israeli cabinet minister warned that without a reasonable outcome to the talks, Israel would have to consider sending ground troops back into Gaza.

"Either there will be a reasonable resolution of the situation in Gaza, or, if the fire resumes, we will have to consider a broadening of the operation, including an expansion on the ground, overthrowing the Hamas authorities and the demilitarisation of Gaza by ourselves," Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told army radio.

"No-one is very excited by this and there is a price for it. But I think that within a couple of days, it will be decided one way or another."


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