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Israel rejects Egeland claim that airstrikes violated international law

[JURIST] The Israeli Foreign Ministry [official website] said Monday that weekend statements by visiting United Nations relief coordinator Jan Egeland [official profile; JURIST news archive] that damage caused by Israeli airstrikes [JURIST news archive] in Beirut was excessive and in violation of international humanitarian law [JURIST report] conflicted with those of other UN bodies. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor rejected what he called Egeland's "very harsh terms" and said that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council had been more lenient on Israel [JURIST report] than Egeland, adding that the Group of Eight (G8) countries, EU foreign ministers and the Arab League had also been less severe. Elsewhere around the world, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer [official website] also jumped to Israel's defense, suggesting Egeland's comments were biased because he had not toured areas of Israel under attack.

On Sunday, Egeland expressed dismay that "block after block of houses" were destroyed in south Beirut, adding that Israel had made "an excessive use of force in an area with so many civilians." That, he said, "makes it a violation of humanitarian law." Egeland and the UN are attempting to coordinate the creation of three humanitarian corridors [Reuters report] over sea to allow aid to come in to the war-torn area. On Monday, Egeland also launched a humanitarian relief appeal [recorded video] from Beirut. ABC Australia has more.

8:10 PM ET - Speaking to reporters in Cyprus Monday on his way to Israel on the second leg of his Middle East humanitarian relief mission, Egeland did not respond directly to Israeli criticism but said his original message was equally meant for Hezbollah: "Some believe I spoke only about excessive use of force by Israel there... However, consistently from Hezbollah heartlands my message was: 'Hezbollah – stop this cowardly blending in among women and children'." AFP has more.

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