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  • Palestinian demonstrators shout during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest at the Israel-Gaza border east of Gaza City.

    Palestinian demonstrators shout during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest at the Israel-Gaza border east of Gaza City. | Photo: Reuters

Published 6 March 2019

High Commissioner Bachelet said she regretted Israel's "immediate dismissal" of the report "without addressing any of the very serious issues raised."

The head of the United Nations Human Rights Council Michelle Bachelet said Wednesday that she was disappointed at Israel’s dismissal of a report which accused the country of breaking international law by killing Palestinian protesters and recommended the country be referred to the International Criminal Court.

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Michelle Bachelet called for both Israel and Palestine to exercise restraint before the first anniversary of the Gaza protests March 30. Since the start of protests, named the Great March of Return, the besieged Gaza strip has seen weekly protests on Fridays -- in which violent Israeli crackdown has claimed around 200 Palestinian lives. Protesters have been demanding the removal of the blockade on Gaza and the return of Palestinian refugees.

Bachelet spoke at the presentation of her annual report at the U.N.'s headquarters in Geneva, saying that Israel may have committed war crimes by using live fire against protesters in Gaza, killing 189 Palestinians, including doctors and journalists. 

Last week, Israel said the report was false and complained of anti-Israel bias in the Human Rights Council. The country withdrew from the council last year citing bias.

"The Human Rights Council's theatre of the absurd has once again produced a report that is hostile, mendacious and biased against Israel," acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz said last week. "No one can deny Israel the right to self-defense and the obligation to protect its citizens and its borders against violent attacks."

The UNHRC chief said she regretted Israel's "immediate dismissal" of the report "without addressing any of the very serious issues raised."

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Bachelet, former president of Chile of two terms and child survivor of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s regime, made the comments during a speech at the U.N. Human Rights Council during which she reported on international human rights issues -- including treatment of women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, and the threat of increased violence in Cameroon between the government and separatists.

In a scathing response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the U.N. Human Rights Council of hypocrisy and lies fueled by "an obsessive hatred for Israel."

Palestinians say the weekly protests are led by civil society groups demanding an easing of the blockade and recognition of their right to return to their homes and villages in Israel, which their ancestors were displaced from by Zionist groups and later by the Israeli government itself upon the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948.

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