Israeli forces should cease its use of live ammunition against civilians that may constitute excessive use of force, according to a statement [text, PDF] released on Wednesday by UN Humanitarian Coordinator James Rawley. He expressed concern over the increasing number of civilians killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank [JURIST news archive]. It was reported that since November eight civilians, including three minors, have been killed by the use of live ammunition. Rawley urged the government to conduct "timely, thorough, independent and impartial" investigations into the incidents and to hold those responsible for the deaths accountable. He stressed that the right to peaceful protest must be respected and strict measures must be taken to keep the protests non-violent and avoid further casualties.
Israel has been criticized recently for potential human rights violations, particularly with respect to the conflict in Gaza [JURIST news archive]. On Tuesday the UN Human Rights Council [official website] expressed regret that the Israeli government failed to send [JURIST report] a representative to the Council's review of Israel's human rights record. Last month Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] accused the Israeli Defense Forces of war crimes [JURIST report] after a November aerial bombing raid killed 12 civilians in Gaza. Earlier that week UN Special Rapporteur Richard Flak called on Israel [JURIST report] to fully implement and continue to support the recent conflict-ending ceasefire agreement with Palestinians in Gaza. In November UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] pressured Israel to avoid strikes [JURIST report] on civilian structures in Gaza. In August Amnesty International called on Israel [JURIST report] to investigate its treatment of Palestinian detainees, alleging that two had been mistreated. In June the UN also urged Israel to end its blockade [JURIST report] of the Gaza Strip, alleging that it was violating international law.