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Head of UN inquiry into war crimes in Gaza conflict resigns

The head of a United Nations inquiry into the conflict in Gaza has announced his resignation after Israel accused him of bias.

UK-based academic William Schabas was appointed by the head of the UN Human Rights Council to lead an investigation into alleged war crimes committed during Israel's military operation in Gaza last year.

William Schabas was appointed to lead an investigation into alleged war crimes committed during Israel's military operation in Gaza last year Credit: Reuters

Israel had criticised his appointment, citing his record as a critic of the state and its leadership, and the Council had sought legal advice after it emerged he was paid $1,300 (£865) to provide a legal opinion for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 2012.

Reuters news agency reports that Schabas sent a letter to the commission stating he would step down immediately to prevent the issue from overshadowing the findings of the report, which is due to be released in March.

He also defended his work for the PLO.

My views on Israel and Palestine as well as on many other issues were well known and very public... This work in defence of human rights appears to have made me a huge target for malicious attacks.

I believe that it is difficult for the work to continue while a procedure is underway to consider hether the chair of the commission should be removed.

– William Schabas

Palestinian jailed for role in deaths of three Israelis

Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach were killed in June. Credit: Reuters

A Palestinian man has been jailed for life for 'masterminding' the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths which set off a chain of events leading to the 50-day Gaza war last summer, Reuters reports.

The court found that Hussam Kawasmeh, who was reportedly a member of the militant Hamas Islamist group, planned the abduction in which Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Gilad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, were shot dead while hitchhiking in the occupied West Bank in June.

Israeli media reports that the youths were found buried on land bought by Kawasmeh and he received 200,000 shekels to fund the attack which he used to buy the car used in the abductions along with weapons.

Two Hamas operatives suspected of having killed the teenagers died in a firefight with Israeli forces at their West Bank hideout in September.

Palestinian 'Santa Claus' tear-gassed by Israeli troops

A Palestinian protester dressed as Santa Claus was tear-gassed by Israeli troops and had to be carried to safety.

A protester dressed as Santa Claus has to be carried away by medics Credit: Reuters

The man was among hoards of people demonstrating against the Israeli settlements, demanding free movement for Palestinians during Christmas.

The protest, near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, included many more wearing Santa-style hats and bearing banners reading: "We want Christmas without occupation".

The protesters were demanding free movement for Palestinians over Christmas Credit: Reuters

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Conflicting autopsy reports after death of Palestinian minister

Israeli and Palestinian officials have issued conflicting accounts over the results of an autopsy on a Palestinian minister who died after being shoved and grabbed by the neck by an Israeli policeman at a West Bank protest on Wednesday.

Ziad Abu Ein appears to be grabbed by an Israeli soldier during the protest. Credit: Reuters

Hussein al-Sheikh, a top Palestinian official, told Reuters that Jordanian and Palestinian doctors involved in the late night examination of the body said Ziad Abu Ein, 55, had died from being struck, inhaling tear gas and not receiving prompt medical attention.

But an Israeli medical source familiar with the autopsy results told Reuters the minister died from a heart attack which may have been brought on by the stress of being grabbed by the neck.

Two Palestinians shot dead after 'terror attack'

At least three people have been wounded in an attack near a synagogue in Jerusalem. Credit: APTN

Two Palestinian men armed with axes and knives wounded at least three people in a Jerusalem synagogue before they were shot dead by police officers, an Israeli police spokesman said.

A spokesman for Israel's ambulance service said medics were treating three people, and one person was critically wounded.

Media reports said more people at the scene were wounded.

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