At least 25 people, including three children, have been killed in bombardment by the Israeli military on the Gaza Strip, just a day after the UN Human Rights Council voted to launch an inquiry into the ongoing Israeli offensive's alleged violations of international laws.
Most of Thursday's casualties were reported in the town of Khan Younis in southeast of Gaza, but ambulances struggled to enter the area amid intense fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian Hamas fighters, Al Jazeera's correspondent reported.
Earlier, Navi Pillay, the UN rights chief, told an emergency session of the council on Wednesday that Israel's military actions could amount to war crimes.
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The 47-member council adopted the investigation under a draft resolution after a request by Palestine, which has UN observer status.
- 29 states voted in favour of the investigation.
- 17 abstained, including many EU states.
- 1 voted against - the US.
The Israeli prime minister's office said in a statement that the decision was a "travesty", adding that Israel had "gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm's way".
A total of 732 Palestinians - the vast majority of them civilians - have been killed in Israel's 17-day campaign in Gaza. In the same period, two Israeli civilians have been killed by rocket fire into Israel from Gaza, and 32 Israeli soldiers have died in Gaza.
Wednesday saw a flurry of diplomatic activity, with John Kerry, US secretary of state, holding meetings with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
However, hopes of a ceasefire appeared to be in deadlock.
In his first comments since the Israeli invasion, Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas political leader, said in Doha, Qatar, on Wednesday that his group would never accept a ceasefire plan that did not offer the ending of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
The Israelis have said they will not accept a ceasefire that included an agreement on the blockade, and want a two-step solution - a ceasefire, then talks on any easing of restrictions.
Hours before the UN vote, Pillay told the emergency session that there was a "strong possibility" that Israel had violated international law in Gaza, "in a manner that could amount to war crimes".
She said the killing of civilians in Gaza, especially children, raised concerns over Israel’s precautions and respect for proportionality.
|Hamas leader defiant as Israeli bombardment continues
Pillay also criticised rocket attacks into Israel by Hamas.
"Once again, the principles of distinction and precaution are clearly not being observed during such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups," she said.
The resolution lodged with the UN rights council by Palestine condemned "the widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms".
It called on the international community to "urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry" to investigate "all violations of international human rights law" in the occupied territories.
The aim, it said, was to "establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and to identify those responsible ... ensuring that those responsible are held accountable, and on ways and means to protect civilians against any further assaults".
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies