First Published 2009-01-30
A third of those killed by Israeli soldiers were children
African FMs demand UN probe Israel over Gaza
Africa's ministers urged Israel to lift embargo it imposed on Palestinians in Gaza Strip.
ADDIS ABABA - Africa's foreign ministers on Thursday demanded a UN investigation into what they described as war crimes committed by Israel during its recent military operation against the Gaza Strip.
The officials were in Addis Ababa for a three-day meeting ahead of the 53-member African Union's heads of state summit scheduled to kick off over the weekend.
"(We) call on the Security Council to carry out an investigation into the serious violation of human rights and war crimes observed during the aggression and the use of banned weapons in order that the perpetrators are prosecuted and punished," a statement said.
The AU's Executive Council "is deeply dismayed and shocked by the recent air, ground and sea aggression launched by the Israeli forces which cost the lives of more than a thousand people and accounted for thousands of wounded."
Top UN officials have also pressed for an investigation, specifically into Israeli attacks on UN schools and headquarters in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials have pledged to probe these attacks along with some other alleged violations, including the use of white phosphorus bombs in densely populated areas.
On January 12, the 47-member UN Human Rights Council voted by a large majority to set up a probe into "grave" human rights violations by Israeli forces against Palestinians.
While welcoming a UN resolution that calls for a ceasefire between the foes, Africa's ministers urged Israel to "lift the embargo it has imposed on (Palestinians) and open without delay all the border crossings to allow for the free movement of goods and persons and most importantly humanitarian aid".
More than 1,300 Palestinians, nearly a third of them children, were killed and 5,300 wounded by the 22-day Israeli military onslaught.
Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians were killed during the same period.