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UN rights chief urges Israel to respect international law amidst Gaza violence

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile; JURIST news archive] Sunday condemned [statement text] what she called Israel’s “disproportionate use of force” against Hamas targets in Gaza and urged the Israeli government to “uphold international humanitarian law principles, especially those relating to proportionality in the use of military force and the prevention of collective punishment and the targeting of civilians.” Pillay's call follows two days of Israeli airstrikes that have killed 270 people and wounded more than 600, including many civilians, according to a UN report [text].

Last week, militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired more than 80 rockets and mortars into southern Israel [AFP report], hitting private residences, public buildings, offices, and other populated areas. The Israeli government responded by filing two letters of complaint [text; second letter text] with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and warned militants that they would pay a "heavy price" [AP report] if attacks continued. Both letters of complaint, sent by Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Gabriel Shalev, cited Article 51 [text] of the United Nations Charter, which provides that a Member-State may act in self-defense in the face of an armed attack until the UN Security Council has taken the steps necessary to maintain international peace and security. Member-states invoking Article 51 are nonetheless bound by principles of customary international law, including the principles of necessity and proportionality.

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