Amnesty International (AI) has urged the UN to urgently mandate an independent international investigation into Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and hold accountable those responsible for war crimes.

Despite claims by Israel that its operation “Protective Edge”, since June 8 targets militants, most of more than a hundred Palestinians killed in airstrikes on Gaza are civilians, Amnesty says.

It adds at least 24 children and 16 women were among the casualties.

“Swift UN action is needed as lives hang in the balance,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. “The international community must not repeat previous mistakes, standing by and watching the devastating consequences for civilians.”

Amnesty sees arms embargo on Israel as a means of preventing the violence escalating further.

Strikes on homes, performed as part of Israel’s military operation, are a matter of particular concern to human rights groups.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on Friday questioned the legality of such attacks.

Human rights watchdogs want proof that 340 housing units, destroyed in Gaza, were used for military purposes.

“Unless the Israeli authorities can provide specific information to show how a home is being used to make an effective contribution to military actions, deliberately attacking civilian homes constitutes a war crime and also amounts to collective punishment against the families,” said Amnesty’s Luther.

“Deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime.” he added. “There can be no excuse for either side failing to protect civilians, including journalists, medics and humanitarian workers, or civilian facilities.”

Amnesty International has also called on Israel and Egypt to “ensure that sufficient amounts of medical and humanitarian supplies are allowed into Gaza”.

Healthcare services in the region have been on the brink of collapse due to shortages of supplies, the World Health Organization earlier warned.

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