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U.N. calls for war crimes investigation over Gaza violence

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Israeli protesters hold signs calling on the government to stop violence against Palestinians on the Israel-Gaza border Friday. The U.N. Commissioner on Human Rights agreed to launch an investigation into Israel's response to deadly protests this week. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
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By Ed Adamczyk, UPI

The United Nations said Friday it will begin a war crimes investigation into the killings of dozens of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers at mass demonstrations in Gaza this week.

In a 29-2 vote, with 14 abstentions, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees agreed on a resolution to send a commission of inquiry to "provide recommendations to protect civilians against further assaults" in Gaza.

Australia and the United States voted against the recommendation, and Germany and Britain were among the abstentions.

The resolution calls for an "independent, international commission to inquiry" to be organized and produce a final report by next March.

Israeli military forces used live ammunition to subdue a demonstration Monday by about 10,000 protesters on Israel's independence day, regarded as "Nakba Day" or day of catastrophe by Palestinians. It coincided with the day the united States unveiled its Jerusalem embassy.

The Gaza health ministry said 59 demonstrators died and 2,700 more were injured. The demonstrations ended a seven-week series of weekly protests at the border, in which over 100 people were killed.

There were no deaths and few injuries reported on the Israeli side.

"There is little evidence of any attempt to minimize casualties on Monday," UNHRC chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein told the special counsel session in Switzerland Friday. He noted that Palestinian use of burning kites, slingshots and improvised gasoline bombs were met by live gunfire.

"The stark contrast in casualties on both sides is suggestive of a wholly disproportionate response. Nobody has been made safer by the horrific events of the past week."

Israel condemned the resolution, saying it doesn't mention Hamas, which it believes is responsible for the demonstrations.

Palestinian UNHRC ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi called the demonstration an "absolute right."

"Israel and its defenders have given the impression that Palestine occupies Israel. How long will this joke continue? We have said we want peace and the world agrees with us that there should be a two-state solution. But Israel refuses that."

Representatives of countries that abstained generally approved of the investigation, but called the resolution biased against Israel.

"The resolution is one-sided, and does not advance the prospects for a peaceful, negotiated settlement to this conflict," a statement from the Canadian delegation said. "The resolution also singles out Israel, without any reference to other actors. ... We expect all parties to uphold international humanitarian law and human rights law, and this is not reflected in the resolution."

A Canadian doctor was among those wounded in the demonstrations.

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