The top UN human rights official said on Monday that Palestinians living in the Gaza strip had suffered "massive" human rights violations.
Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights, travelled to the town of Beit Hanoun, where Israeli artillery killed 18 members of a single family two weeks ago as they slept in their house. She said she would use a five-day trip to the region to call on Palestinian and Israeli leaders to stop further violence.
"The violation of human rights I think in this territory is massive," Arbour said as she toured the town in the northern Gaza strip.
"The call for protection has to be answered. We cannot continue to see civilians, who are not the authors of their own misfortune, suffer to the extent of what I see," she said.
Arbour met members of the Athamna family who survived the attack and who showed her photographs of their dead relatives. Even as she travelled through the town Israeli troops were operating in another area of Beit Hanoun, tearing up fields from which militants have been launching crudely made rockets at Israel.
The Israeli military said a fault in its artillery was responsible for the shelling of the Athamna family. The incident came after a week-long Israeli military operation in Beit Hanoun which itself left more than 50 Palestinians -- among them many militants -- dead and which was intended to stop rocket fire into Israel.
Militants continue to fire their Qassam rockets into Israel, mostly aimed at the town of Sderot.