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'Grave breaches' of international humanitarian law by both sides in Mideast conflict: Annan

[JURIST] Opening an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council [recorded video] Sunday, hours after an Israeli air strike that killed over 60 civilians [JURIST report] in the Lebanese village of Qana, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said [statement text] that "both sides in this conflict bear a heavy responsibility, and there is strong prima facie evidence that both have committed grave breaches of international humanitarian law." Annan continued:

The present fighting began on 12 July, with an unprovoked Hizbollah attack on Israel and the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. Since then, Hizbollah has continued firing rockets indiscriminately into northern Israel, from positions apparently located in the midst of the civilian population.

No one disputes Israel’s right to defend itself. But, by its manner of doing so, it has caused, and is causing, death and suffering on a wholly unacceptable scale.

As you know, I have repeatedly condemned all actions that target civilians, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights has reminded all parties that they may be held accountable for any breaches of international humanitarian law.
Annan urged the Council to act to bring about an immediate cessation of hostilities. He told reporters later that he expected the Council to issue a Presidential Statement, although US UN Ambassador John Bolton suggested that what would emerge would be an expression of condolence for the latest "tragedy." The UN News Center has a summary of the Council statements.

8:32 PM ET - In a just-announced Presidential Statement [text], the Security Council has expressed "extreme shock and distress" at the loss of life in the Qana incident but has not condemned the attack. US UN Ambassador John Bolton told reporters afterwards that the US objected to any stronger language that would be "conclusory" about the nature of the incident before an investigation. French UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, current president of the Council, said the statement was a compromise, but was nonetheless a step forward for the Council in addressing the crisis, especially in its call for an end to violence.

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