Israel defies global pressure, toll rises to 720

RSTV Bureau

gaza_strikeIsraeli troops backed by tanks and drones continued to pound Gaza on Thursday in its operation, defying mounting calls for restraint and a UN vote to investigate the deadly offensive that has killed 720 Palestinians and 34 Israelis.

Israel focused its attacks on southeast of Gaza, with residents fleeing areas which came under bombardment.

Israeli forces destroyed at least 475 houses and 2,644 have been partially damaged. Some 46 schools, 56 mosques and seven hospitals had also suffered varying degrees of destruction, Palestinian officials said.

A total of 720 Palestinians – the vast majority of them civilians – have been killed in Israel’s 17-day campaign in Gaza, they said. Thirty two Israeli soldiers and two civilians have also died.

As the death toll mounted, UN Human Rights Council ordered a probe into Israel’s offensive on Gaza on Wednesday.

India along with Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa voted in favour of the Palestinian-drafted resolution on “Ensuring Respect for international law in The Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jersusalem”.

Israel’s close ally US was the only one of 47 member states to oppose the probe supported by 29 countries.

Describing UNHCR as a “kangaroo court”, Israel slammed the move as a “travesty”.

“This investigation by a kangaroo court is a foregone conclusion,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Prior to the vote, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that Israel could be committing war crimes in Gaza.

As both sides refused to back down, many international airlines kept its flight to Israel suspended even as American aviation authority lifted its ban on US flights to Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry has been meeting both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to help negotiate a truce.

Speaking after meeting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is also in the region, Kerry said: “We have certainly made some steps forward, but there is still work to be done.”