UN watchdog slams Israel abuses, demands Gaza war probe

Palestinian children stand in the rubble of destroyed homes from the 50-day conflict between Hamas militants and Israel, in Gaza City on October 12, 2014 (AFP Photo/Mahmed Hams) (AFP/File)

Geneva (AFP) - A UN human rights watchdog on Thursday urged Israel to respect the rights of Palestinians, and demanded the country probe violations committed during repeated assaults on Gaza.

With tensions soaring in East Jerusalem, and months of almost daily clashes, the UN Human Rights Committee published conclusions Thursday from its review earlier this month of Israel's human rights record.

The committee lamented continued punitive demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, excessive force by the Israel Defence Forces and decried reports of the use of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinians, including children, in Israeli detention facilities.

It also slammed the "continuing confiscation and expropriation of Palestinian land and restrictions on access of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem."

The body, which oversees global rules on civil and political rights, and submits governments to regular reviews, also voiced concern over alleged human rights abuses during three Israeli military operations in Gaza since late 2008, including the nearly two-month war this summer that killed nearly 2,200 mainly civilian Palestinians and 73 people in Israel, mostly soldiers.

Israel "should ensure that all human rights violations committed during its military operations in the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014 are thoroughly, effectively, independently and impartially investigated," the Geneva-based committee said in its conclusions.

It demanded that perpetrators, especially those in positions of command, be "prosecuted and sanctioned" and that the victims and their families be provided "effective remedies".

And it criticised Israel's continuing blockade of Gaza, lamenting that the blockade continues to "negatively impact Palestinians' access to all basic and life-saving services such as food, health, electricity, water and sanitation."

The committee's comments came as tensions raging since the Gaza war started in July swelled after Israeli police shot dead a Palestinian Thursday suspected of an assassination attempt on a hardline campaigner for Jewish prayer rights at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque.

In a bid to avoid further tensions, Israel ordered the closure of the Al-Aqsa compound to all visitors, drawing a furious response from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who described it as "a declaration of war".