UN rights council set to consider probe on Gaza boat raid

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The UN Human Rights Council was set on Tuesday to consider setting up an international probe into Israel's deadly interception of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla during an urgent debate on the incident.

"The Council will be holding an urgent debate on the Gaza flotilla incident this afternoon," a spokeswoman for the 47-member state assembly, Claire Kaplun, said in a statement.

The request was made by states from the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Kaplun told AFP.

Pakistan, Sudan and the Palestinian delegation also tabled a draft resolution for the debate seeking condemnation of the raid and aiming to set up an international probe, according to a copy released here.

It called for an "independent international fact finding mission to investigate violations of international law resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance."

The draft resolution also "condemns in the strongest terms possible the outrageous attack by Israeli forces" and called for the release of all those detained in Monday's operation.

Israeli commandoes boarded one of the aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip in the pre-dawn raid that left at least nine passengers dead and sparked global outrage. Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists were also arrested.

Israeli Defence Forces blamed activists on the ship for creating the confrontation by attacking its soldiers as they boarded the vessel.

Israel warned Tuesday it would prevent all aid ships from reaching besieged Gaza, as activists vowed a new attempt to defy the three-year-old blockade of the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned Israel's use of military force as disproportionate, as the incident sparked widespread criticism when the council began its latest two week session on Monday.

Israeli ambassador Aharon Leshno Yaar urged the Human Rights Council "not to rush to conclusions" until full information about the incident was known.

The UN Security Council in New York later called for an impartial investigation into the attack and the immediate release of all civilians.

In Geneva, Pillay underlined her broader concerns about the impact of the Israeli blockade on human rights in Gaza.

"The blockade lies at the heart of so many of the problems plaguing the Israel-Palestine situation, as does the impression that the Israeli government treats international law with perpetual disdain," she said.

Israel is frequently the subject of special debates and condemnation by the UN's top rights assembly for issues such as settlement building in occupied territories and abuse against Palestinians.

A similar special session early last year led to a UN human rights investigation into Israel's 2008-2009 military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The fact-finding mission led by former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone concluded that both Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Israel has resisted one of the key demands of the mission's report, to carry out a probe into the allegations.

© 2010 AFP

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