GENEVA - Israel is guilty of "collective punishment" of the Palestinian people through its military actions in the Gaza Strip, a United Nations human rights official said Friday.
"Israeli action has failed to discriminate between militants and civilians. In summary, its action in Gaza constitutes collective punishment of the Palestinian people," John Dugard said.
The UN special envoy for human rights in the Palestinian territories told the world body's rights council here that Israel had been engaged in a "brutal military operation" in Gaza since June 25.
Some 260 Palestinians had been killed and 800 injured in the operation, he said.
Dugard was tasked on July 6 with leading a fact-finding mission to Gaza but he was effectively refused entry by Israel, officials here said.
UN human rights chief Louise Arbour said Thursday that she was poised to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories to investigate the impact of the conflict.
"I have repeatedly expressed my concerns at the deteriorating situation in the occupied Palestinian territories," Arbour said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council, the world body's watchdog forum.
"Soon, I will have an opportunity to conduct a firsthand assessment of the situation," by visiting both Israel and the Palestinian areas, she said, without giving further details.
09/29/2006 16:47 GMT
Friday, September 29, 2006