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UN doubts legality of Israeli air campaign

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(AP Photo/Hatem Moussa). Palestinians inspect the rubble of a building after it was hit by an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City, Friday, July 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa). Palestinians inspect the rubble of a building after it was hit by an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City, Friday, July 11, 2014.
(AP Photo/Avi Roccah). An Israeli firefighter tries to extinguish a petrol station on fire after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza in Ashdod, Israel, Friday, July 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Avi Roccah). An Israeli firefighter tries to extinguish a petrol station on fire after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza in Ashdod, Israel, Friday, July 11, 2014.
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By JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) - Israel's air campaign in Gaza may violate international laws prohibiting the targeting of civilians, the U.N.'s top human rights official said Friday.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said the Israeli military, which claims to have hit more than 1,100 targets that it says are mostly rocket-launching sites, and the Gaza militants, who have fired more than 550 rockets against Israel, must abide by international law.

"We have received deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes," Pillay said. "Such reports raise serious doubt about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law."

Pillay says she's seen for herself in Gaza how traumatic the airstrikes and rocket attacks are for civilians, particularly children. Her office says civilians bear the brunt of the conflict now - and all sides must refrain from launching attacks or putting military weapons in densely populated areas.

"Israel, Hamas, and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza have been down this road before, and it has led only to death, destruction, distrust and a painful prolongation of the conflict," Pillay said.

Targeting civilian homes violates international humanitarian law, but not if the homes are used for military purposes. But even then attacks on a home used by a military must be proportionate.

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