UNITED NATIONS, July 23 (UPI) -- Israel's military actions in Gaza could amount to war crimes, the United Nations' top human rights official told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the one-day emergency session the ground invasion of Gaza lacks protection of civilians, noting, "There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes."
In reference to a July 16 airstrike that killed children playing on a beach, Pillay said that "the disregard for international humanitarian law and for the right to life was shockingly evident."
She also was critical of Hamas, the political and militant organization controlling Gaza, for its "indiscriminate attacks" on Israel.
Israel began its ground offensive in Gaza July 8 after 11 days of rocket fire and shelling by both sides; Israel's aerial assaults were by far more effective and accurate, and the ground invasion was initiated to end rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.
The United Nations reported 74 percent of the 649 Palestinians killed thus far in Gaza were civilians, and medical clinics were among targets hit by airstrikes.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted 44 percent of Gazan territory is a "no-go zone," according to the Israeli Defense Force, and families in Gaza are intentionally dividing when traveling to "maximize the chance one part of the family survives."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a cease-fire to address the conflict.