The UN special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories accused the Israeli army on Tuesday, December 30, of perpetrating atrocities against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
"Israel is committing a shocking series of atrocities by using modern weaponry against a defenseless population – attacking a population that has been enduring a severe blockade for many months," Richard Falk, the special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories, said in a BBC interview.
Children again fell victim to Israel’s "all-out war," with two sisters, aged four and 11, dying when a missile slammed into their donkey cart in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun.
According to Gaza medics, at least 39 children under 16 years old have died as a result of the Israeli strikes that have killed at least 367 Palestinians in Gaza since Saturday.
On Sunday night, five sisters died when masonry from a mosque hit by an Israeli strike crushed their house.
Falk, an emeritus professor of international law at Princeton University, urged the international community to put more pressure on Israel to end its attacks on the overcrowded territory of 1.6 million.
The same appeal was made earlier Tuesday by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who demanded an end to the "unacceptable" violence.
"Both Israel and Hamas must halt their acts of violence and… a ceasefire must be declared immediately," he said.
In Brussels, the European Union’s executive arm sounded the alarm about the "plight of civilians" in the battered territory, and called for an immediate halt to military hostilities.
But Israel spurned the world appeals for a truce, warning that its deadly assault could last for weeks.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the bombardment so far was "the first of several stages approved by the security cabinet."
Falk, the UN rights rapporteur, accused Israel of war crimes against the people of Gaza.
"Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful," he said.
"But that illegality does not give rise to any Israeli right…to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response," stressed professor Falk.
"The entire 1.5 million people who live in the crowded Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants."
He said Israel’s blockade of Gaza led to food shortages and prevented medical aid from reaching the injured.
The same message was echoed by the World Health Organization, which urged Israel to ensure that medical supplies are channeled to those hit by its military action.
"Civilians are paying the price for the prolonged blockade," it said in a statement.
"As a top priority, the shortages of essential and life-saving medicines need to be abated without delay."
Gaza’s hospitals suffer power blackouts lasting up to 12 hours a day and severe shortage of medicine and medical equipment.
"The inability of the hospitals to cope with a problem of this magnitude, if the situation continues unchanged, will result in a surge in preventable deaths from complications due to trauma," warned the WHO.
"WHO reiterates its call for the immediate discontinuation of the current violence and the removal of blockades so that much-needed food, water, fuel, medicines and other humanitarian aid can reach those in need."
(IslamOnline.net and news agencies)