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Baird maligns UN human rights council on Gaza resolution, defends Israel

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is once again maligning the United Nations, accusing its human rights council of singling out Israel and making no mention of Hamas in its resolution on the Gaza conflict.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted 29-1 on Wednesday to authorize an international commission of inquiry to investigate all alleged abuses since mid-June in the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. was the only opposing vote. Canada is not a member of the UNHRC.

The UN's top human rights official, Navi Pillay, has also demanded that all sides in the two-week war in the Gaza Strip refrain from indiscriminate attacks on civilians, warning that violations may amount to war crimes.

In a statement, Baird accused the council of ignoring Hamas's terrorist acts as it "continues to indiscriminately fire rockets into Israeli communities, striking fear in millions of Israelis.

"Canada is frustrated and deeply disappointed that the UNHCR decided to completely ignore the abhorrent terrorist acts of Hamas," he added.

"This resolution turns a blind eye to the facts on the ground and that one party is responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian people, and that is the international terrorist group Hamas."

He adds that failure to condemn the "reprehensible actions of Hamas has only emboldened its brutality and encouraged these terrorists to continue their inexcusable actions."

Israeli officials, meantime, said that the council's decision to investigate Israel's role in the conflict sent a message to extremist groups around the world that using human shields — which it accuses Hamas of doing — was an "effective strategy."

Baird has frequently taken aim at the UN for its stances on the Middle East and Syria, including Pillay in recent weeks as the Gaza conflict intensified.

His latest comments came as Amnesty International sent him an open letter, urging him to denounce Israel too for the violence in the Middle East.

"We are deeply concerned ... that the Canadian government has not yet forcefully condemned the nature of the military offensive launched by the Israeli government," the letter read.

"It has become tragically and abundantly clear that many aspects of the Israeli aerial campaign and ground offensive violate fundamental international legal standards; and that it is overwhelmingly Palestinian civilians in Gaza who are suffering the consequences."

- With files from The Associated Press

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