Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking written pledges of support from all political factions, including rival Hamas, before making any attempt to press for possible war crimes charges against Israel, senior officials said Thursday. Abbas is under pressure to turn the International Criminal Court on the issue, as the death toll in Gaza rises.
The UN humanitarian chief is calling for daily "humanitarian pauses" in Gaza until a long-term cease-fire is reached between Israel and Hamas. She made the comments at a UN Security Council meeting on Gaza, which Israel's ambassador claimed was bais against Isarael.
Abbas hesitated in the past because such a step would transform his relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile and could put him on a collision course with the United States.
We have been pressing him for a long time," independent legislator Mustafa Barghouti said Thursday.
At a meeting with political leaders on Tuesday, Abbas asked participants to sign a declaration of support for such a move, said Barghouti, adding that everyone signed.
The final decision, on when to seek accession, would still be up to Abbas, according to other participants who spoke on condition of anonymity because there were discussing internal deliberation.
They said Abbas also told them he would not move forward without written consent from Hamas and Islamic Jihad because they could expose themselves to possible war crimes charges.
Abbas' Fatah movement wrote on its official Facebook page that Abbas is seeking broad consensus, in part because of the potential repercussions for Hamas.
"Regarding the question a large number of brothers and sisters, 'why dont you go to the International Criminal Court,' the leadership of the State of Palestine will sign the Rome Statute all the way to the International Criminal Court after ... the approval of all the Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas and Islamic Jihad, because this option is a double-edged sword," Fatah wrote.
Earlier, Valerie Amos told the Security Council by videoconference that the world has watched "in horror the desperation of children and civilians that have come under attack" in Gaza. She said over 80 percent of the more than 1,300 Palestinians killed are civilians, including 251 children.
Pierre Krahenbuhl, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, told the council by phone from Gaza City that conditions are dire and UNRWA is overwhelmed with more than 220,000 people who have sought refuge at UN facilities.
Israel's Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor slammed the meeting, saying "members of the international community have been quick to condemn Israel, but slow to condemn Hamas for its war crimes."
Meanwhile, the United Nations' senior human rights official said on Thursday she believed Israel was deliberately defying international law in its military offensive in Gaza and that world powers should hold it accountable for possible war crimes.
Israel has attacked homes, schools, hospitals, and UN premises in apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.
"Therefore I would say that they appear to be defying... deliberate defiance of obligations that international law imposes on Israel," Pillay told a news briefing.
"This is why again and again I say we cannot allow impunity, we cannot allow this lack of accountabiliity to go on."
Hamas militants in Gaza have also violated international humanitarian law by firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel, sometimes from densely-populated areas, Pillay said.
She also criticised the United States, Israel's main ally, for failing to use its influence with the Jewish state to halt the fighting.
"Many of my remarks have been directed to the United States since they are a party with influence over Israel to do much more to stop the killing, to bring the parties to the negotiating table. I've called also for an end to the blockade and an end to the occupation."
Pillay said that she was appalled at Washington consistently voting against resolutions on Israel in the Human Rights Council, General Assembly and Security Council.
"They have not only provided the heavy weaponry which is now being used by Israel in Gaza but they've also provided almost $1 billion in providing the 'Iron Domes' to protect the Israels from rocket attacks," she said. "But no such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing inte rnational alarm over a rising civilian death toll in Gaza, said on Thursday he would not accept any ceasefire that stopped Israel completing the destruction of militants' infiltration tunnels.
Gaza officials say at least 1,372 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed and nearly 7,000 wounded. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza clashes and more than 400 wounded. Three civilians have been killed by Palestinian shelling in Israel.
Israel says it is acting to stop the Hamas rocket attacks.
Pillay said that as Israel prosecuted only four Israeli soldiers for its 2008/09 Operation Caste Lead, including one for alleged theft of a credit card, she did not expect it to investigate properly violations committed during its air strikes and ground assault on Gaza, now in its fourth week.
"But international law is clear that where a state is unable or unwilling to carry out investigations and prosecutions, the international (criminal justice) system applies," she said.
Previous UN commissions of inquiry into Israel incursions into Gaza have called for the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to Pillay, a former UN war crimes judge.
"Accountability and justice cannot be expected to be achieved through (Israeli) domestic proceedings. This is evident from the lack of adequate investigations by Israel and no attempt whatsoever made by the international community to implement the recommendations made by the Gaza fact-finding mission report," Pillay said.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report