GENEVA (AFP) — The UN's human rights chief has expressed her "grave concern" at Israel's decision to declare the Gaza Strip a "hostile territory," and its threats to cut off fuel and electricity supplies.
In a statement issued late on Thursday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour warned that "the implementation of such measures would impose an unbearable burden on the civilian population of Gaza."
She reiterated condemnation of "indiscriminate" rocket attacks launched from Gaza, but called on Israel to show restraint and abide by its responsibilities under international humanitarian law.
Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Wednesday that the Jewish state needed to answer what she termed daily "terror attacks" on its soil from Gaza.
The Gaza Strip, home to some 1.5 million people, has been ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement since a bloody power struggle with its secular Fatah rivals in June.
Hamas blasted the move as "collective punishment" while the UN Secretary General urged Israel to reconsider.
Cutting supplies "would be contrary to Israel's obligations towards the civilian population under international humanitarian and human rights law," Ban Ki-moon warned.
Medics in Gaza warned that any move by Israel to complete its blockade of the territory was likely to lead to civilian deaths.
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