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UN rights chief calls for Israel probe of Palestinian deaths in Gaza airstrikes

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] Monday called on Israel [press release] to conduct an impartial investigation into the deaths of Palestinians during recent Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder], noting that as an occupying power Israel "bears a particular responsibility under international human rights and humanitarian law to protect the civilian population and civilian installations in Gaza." More than 120 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes and military incursions into the territory since last Wednesday. In her comments, Arbour expressed dismay over Israel's "disproportionate use of force" in Gaza, and also condemned the use of rockets by Palestinian militants to attack Israel. Reuters has more. The UN News Centre has additional coverage.

In January, Arbour criticized [JURIST report] an Israeli blockade of Gaza, saying that Israel's policy of collective punishment, disproportionate use of force and targeted killings, coupled with the Palestinian militant practice of indiscriminate firings of bombs and rockets, had helped precipitate problems in the area. Israeli troops began to withdraw from Gaza Monday after an incursion last week, but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert [JURIST news archive] warned that strikes would continue [Ha'aretz report] against local Hamas targets. BBC News has more.

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