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UN human rights chief accuses Israel, Hamas of war crimes

July 31, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: There was late word Thursday from the U.S. and U.N. of an unconditional 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. It’s set to start Friday. And all parties have agreed to it. This comes after 23 days of fighting, the death toll on each side now surpassing the last Gaza conflict five years ago; 1,422 Palestinians and 59 Israelis, most of them soldiers, have been killed this month.

We look at the events of the day leading up to the cease-fire announcement. Plumes of smoke mingled with sunrise above Gaza City. Mosques were once again a target. Remnants of one stood amid its own rubble following an Israeli airstrike.

Elsewhere, firefighters doused flames after another strike reduced homes to a debris-filled crater. And in Northern Gaza, 30 people, mostly children, were evacuated from a United Nations school after Israeli tank shells landed nearby, this a day after 19 people died when Israeli shells struck a similar school sheltering more than 3,000 Palestinian refugees.

But warning sirens also blared in Israel. The Israeli military said more than 60 rockets were fired at Israel from within Gaza today. Moderate injuries were reported. Three-and-a-half weeks into this latest Israel-Gaza war, the U.N. human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes, but she reserved her harshest words for Israel.

NAVI PILLAY, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: The shelling of houses directly means a violation of Israel’s obligation to protect the right to housing, the right to food, right to clean water of Gazans, even as — under its obligations as an occupying force.

And, therefore, I would say that they appear to be defying, deliberate defiance of obligations that international law imposes on Israel.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, in Washington, the White House press secretary, while defending Israel, said it needs to do more to protect civilians.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: The shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brushed aside such comments after a security cabinet meeting.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through interpreter): So far, we neutralized scores of terror tunnels and we are determined to complete this mission with or without a cease-fire. Therefore, I won’t agree to any proposal that will not enable the Israeli military to finish this important task.

JUDY WOODRUFF: To supplement the ongoing campaign, the Israeli military today called up another 16,000 reservist forces. It also released two videos. The first, it claimed, showed militant rockets being launched from populated areas of Gaza towards Israel, the other, footage of a tunnel entrance and weapons purportedly discovered in a Gaza Strip mosque by Israeli Defense Forces. Narration claims IDF personnel fought with five militants at the site.