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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Geneva Convenes

Geneva - The United Nation's Human Rights Council called for a halt to Israel's military offensive in Gaza Thursday at the end of its first ever emergency session.

The Council also agreed to send a fact-finding mission to the Palestinian territories to report back urgently on alleged human rights violations by Israel.

It expressed grave concern at the detrimental impact of the Israeli offensive on the living conditions of the Palestinian population and urged Israel to 'refrain from imposing collective punishment on Palestinian civilians.'

The resolution was put forward by the Organization of the Islamic Conference composed of Arab and Muslim states, and adopted after 29 states voted in favour, 11 against.

There were five abstentions.

The European Union members opposed the resolution along with the Czech Republic and Canada.

They had already expressed concern Wednesday that the text was too one-sided against Israel.

The final resolution was more encompassing.

An amendment by Switzerland, later modified by the Muslim states, urged 'all concerned parties' to respect the rules of international law and to refrain from violence against civilians.

It reminded both sides to abide by the Geneva Conventions with regard to the treatment of all detained combatants.

The resolution came as Israel widened its eight-day offensive launched with the aim of securing the release of a soldier held captive by Palestinian armed forces in Gaza since June 25.

Israel authorized the military to extend its operation into northern Gaza after an upgraded Palestinian rocket succeeded in hitting the centre of the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon for the first time Tuesday night.

It was the first emergency resolution passed by the new Human Rights Council which only held its inaugural meeting at the end of June.

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