Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 17:59 pm (KSA) 14:59 pm (GMT)

Syria accuses Israel of Gaza 'war crimes'

the Israeli offensive on Gaza  has so far claimed almost 900 lives
the Israeli offensive on Gaza has so far claimed almost 900 lives

Syria accused Israel on Sunday of committing war crimes during its military onslaught on the Gaza Strip as Israel condemned the Swiss government after Bern lent in its support to a U.N. draft resolution condemning human rights violations in the Gaza Strip.

"Israel has committed war crimes... killing women and children, relief workers, journalists and using white phosphorus bombs," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said.

He argued that a U.N.-backed ceasefire should be binding.

War crimes

 I am surprised the U.N. Security Council does not report such crimes... and it does not form an independent commission of inquiry, 
Syrian FM Walid Muallem

"The Security Council should adopt a binding resolution on a ceasefire... which also would include war crimes committed by Israel," Muallem said at a joint news conference with his Brazilian counterpart Celso Amorim.

Muallem said he was "surprised the U.N. Security Council does not report such crimes... and it does not form an independent commission of inquiry" to investigate.

Under the 1980 Geneva Convention, the use of white phosphorus was banned against civilians or against military forces stationed in proximity of civilian.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1860 "stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza."

It "calls for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment," and welcomes initiatives aimed at "creating and opening humanitarian corridors and other mechanisms for the sustained delivery of humanitarian aid."

Despite the resolution, Israel has decided to continue its operation in Gaza. The Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza says it is unconcerned by the resolution as it was not consulted.

Muallem said Syria, France, Turkey and Qatar were all trying "to reach a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory, a lifting of the blockade and the opening of the crossing points."

He outlined the possibility of an international conference on rebuilding Gaza after the introduction of any truce between the Palestinians and Israel.

Earlier, after meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Amorim called for "mobilization to put pressure on Israel to cease its aggression," according to SANA news agency.

Brazil has criticized as "disproportionate" the offensive Israel launched on Dec. 27 against Hamas in response to rocket and mortar fire into its territory. So far, the conflict has claimed almost 900 lives.

Siding against Israel

 Switzerland support for the resolution very problematic, because Switzerland is in this way taking sides against Israel, 
Israeli Ambassador to Switzerland Ilan Elgar

In the meantime, a senior Israeli diplomat lambasted the Swiss government in a newspaper interview Sunday after Bern lent in its support to a U.N. draft resolution condemning human rights violations in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's ambassador Ilan Elgar told the Sonntags Zeitung he found Switzerland's support for the resolution "very problematic, because Switzerland is in this way taking sides against Israel.".

"We have contracted the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs," Elgar added, without giving further details.

Elgar also criticized a pro-Palestinian rally held in the capital Saturday, which called for Switzerland to sever all military ties with Israel.

"We must not forget that hundreds of thousands of Israeli have lived for quite a long time in fear and worry of Hamas rockets," he said.

Switzerland was the only Western European country to back the draft resolution, supported by 32 members of the U.N. Human Rights Council, condemning the "grave human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories."

The resolution tabled late Friday underlined the civilian toll, especially in Gaza, and called for "the immediate cessation of Israeli military attacks" as well as an "end to the launching of crude rockets against Israeli civilians" in a concession to the European Union.

However the council remains deeply split. Some western countries see the draft as one-sided and said the resolution should condemn human rights violations by both sides and not simply call for a ceasefire.

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