By Tim Butcher in Jerusalem
Last Updated: 6:15PM GMT 09 Jan 2009
The United Nations has called for Israel to be investigated for war crimes over the shelling of a house full of Palestinian civilians which left dozens dead.
Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the attack, first revealed in The Telegraph, on members of the extended Samouni family in the Gazan town of Zeitoun "appears to have all the elements of war crimes."
Her remarks came after the International Committee of the Red Cross accused Israel of breaking the rules of war by failing to help the wounded in the incident.
According to the ICRC, four infant children were found too weak to stand after clinging for 48 hours to what ambulance crew believed to be the corpses of their mothers while Israeli soldiers were less than 100 yards away.
Under the rules of war, soldiers have an obligation to treat properly the survivors of combat.
Speaking to an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council Miss Pillay said Palestinian militants firing rockets into Israel was "unacceptable'' but that it did not justify alleged abuses committed by the Israeli army.
She said conditions currently being endured by the 1.5 million strong population of Gaza "constitute egregious violations of human rights".
"Accountability must be ensured for violations of international law,'' she said.
"As a first step credible, independent and transparent investigations must be carried out to identify violations and establish responsibilities.
"I remind this Council that violations of international humanitarian law may constitute war crimes for which individual criminal responsibility may be invoked.''
Israel has denied there is any humanitarian crisis in Gaza and said it is working in concert with international agencies and doing everything possible to reduce civilian casualties.
More than a hundred Palestinian children have been killed since Israel launched operation Cast Lead two weeks ago.
The ICRC has demanded more access to Zeitoun to try to establish the exact death toll in an incident that could be the bloodiest of the conflict so far.
With Israeli forces still in the area and unwilling to let ambulance crews in, apart from a short time on Wednesday, it is not possible to say how many members of the Samouni clan died.
Some survivors said thirty, others suggest the toll might be as high as seventy.
The bloodshed happened after Israel launched its ground offensive last Saturday night.
Israeli troops supported by tanks took Zeitoun quickly and at dawn on Sunday they went house to house detaining men of fighting age and corralling the remaining people, mostly women and children, in a few large houses.
Up to 110 members of the extended Samouni clan were put into one building without water, heating or food.
At dawn on Monday it was shelled repeatedly by Israeli forces. Survivors described seeing bodies with brains oozing out.
Surviving members of the Samouni family described how the Israeli soldiers went from house to house detaining younger men and then crowding a large number, mostly women and children, into a single building.
Meysa Samouni, 19, said up to 110 members of the Samouni family were forced inside without running water or food.
She said: "When the missile stuck, I lay down with my daughter under me. Everything filled up with smoke and dust, and I heard screams and crying.
"After the smoke and dust cleared a bit, I looked around and saw twenty to thirty people who were dead, and about twenty who were wounded.
She said the survivors and walking wounded eventually emerged and found some Israeli soldiers who took two of the male survivors and let the rest pass.
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In: Middle East
Tags: Israeli, strike, civilian, house, war, crime, UN, Israel, soldier, zionist, zionism, troops, tanks, indiscriminant, murder, spree, Zeitoun, palestine, middle, east,
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