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Human Rights Council rebukes Israel


July 7, 2006

The U.N. Human Rights Council rebuked Israel for escalating military actions in Gaza, and voted to dispatch a special rapporteur on a fact-finding mission.

The resolution, adopted Thursday in Geneva by a vote of 29 to 11, with five abstentions, concluded the newly formed body's first-ever special session.

The resolution called on Israel to "end its military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" and to "refrain from imposing collective punishment on Palestinian civilians."

The resolution also urged Israel to release the 64 Hamas leaders taken prisoner, but made no mention of the Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who is believed to be in the hands of Hamas militants.

John Dugard, a special rapporteur for the council, will be dispatched to Gaza on a fact-finding mission.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, and voting against the resolution, Vesa Himanen of Finland expressed regret that the resolution took an unbalanced view of the situation, by not calling for Shalit's immediate and unconditional release and by omitting any condemnation of the firing of Qassam rockets by Palestinians into Israeli territory.

On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan released a statement through his spokesman, urging Israel to halt "actions that amount to collective punishment of Palestinian civilians."

"The situation is dangerous and could be explosive. The Secretary-General urges all concerned to step back from the brink," the statement said.

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