Geneva/Jerusalem: India along with Brics countries on Thursday voted in support of a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution to launch a probe into Israel’s offensive against Palestine and Hamas on Gaza Strip.

India joined Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa to vote for a Palestine-drafted resolution on “Ensuring Respect for international law in The Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jersusalem".

In the 47-member council, 29 countries voted in support of the resolution while 17 nations abstained. The US was the only nation to vote against the resolution. European countries abstained.

Earlier, India asked Israel and Palestine to demonstrate political will to agree to a ceasefire and return to the negotiating table. “We remain hopeful that a sustainable ceasefire will be reached between the two sides, linked to the resumption of the peace process, for a comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian issue," Asoke Mukerji, India’s permanent representative to the UN said at the UN Security Council open debate on “The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question".

He said India is “deeply concerned" at the steep escalation in the conflict between Israel and Palestine that has resulted in a large number of civilian casualties and heavy damage to property.

The developments come as US secretary of state John Kerry on Thursday pressed efforts to end bloodshed in Gaza, reaching out to allies of Hamas as the Islamist movement’s war with Israel raged into a 17th day.

Medics reported more than 50 people killed in Gaza Thursday, mostly in the south, hiking the overall Palestine death toll to 746 since Israel launched a military operation to halt rocket fire from the besieged territory on 8 July.

Earlier on Thursday, US airlines lifted a flight ban to Israel, with other international airlines expected to follow suit. The US national aviation agency had imposed the restriction on Tuesday after a rocket hit a house very close to the runways, in a move mirrored by Europe.

There was no let-up to the violence in Gaza, however, with most of Thursday’s 51 victims killed in and around Khuzaa, a flashpoint area east of Khan Yunis which has been the site of intensive fighting since Tuesday.

Gaza’s health ministry issued a call for international protection for civilians in the area, saying anyone leaving home was being targeted by Israeli fire.

On Wednesday, the Red Cross and Palestine ambulances managed to evacuate 150 people from the area following negotiations with both sides, and another convoy of 10 ambulances entered the area early on Thursday, an ICRC spokeswoman told AFP. In Jabaliya refugee camp, residents gathered at first light to examine the damage after an air strike destroyed houses and a mosque.

“The blast was strong and it destroyed houses and the mosque, it was an F16," Faeq Hussein told AFP as two men struggled over piles of rubble and twisted metal to try to salvage a red armchair.

“All this area is a refugee camp, the houses are very close together and everyone was affected. We are all civilians and this mosque had nothing to do with the rocket fire," he said, the buildings around him peppered with shrapnel.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has said more than 80% of the casualties were civilians, and a quarter of them children, triggering growing international alarm over the civilian body count.

“We are gravely concerned by the ongoing heavy level of civilian causalities," British foreign secretary Philip Hammond said at a press conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at which he also defended Israel’s right to self defence in the face of a conflict triggered by Hamas rocket fire.

Netanyahu said Israel was doing everything it could to minimise casualties, pinning the blame on Hamas for its “grotesque (and) inhuman" use of civilians as human shields. Hammond then flew to Cairo where he was due to hold talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon was also in Egypt and Israel earlier this week, in the hope of hammering out a regional truce deal, with Kerry acknowledging there had been “some progress in moving toward that goal."

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