The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Canada accuses UN official of unfairly criticizing Israeli military action in Gaza

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OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is taking aim at the United Nations once again, this time over comments a senior official made about Israel's attacks on Gaza.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the UN High Commissioner's criticism of Israel's response to rocket attacks from Gaza are uncalled for.

Navi Pillay said this week that there should be an immediate ceasefire, citing reports of many civilian casualties.

In a statement issued Saturday, Baird accused Pillay of focusing her comments on Israel and said that is neither "helpful nor reflective of the reality of this crisis."

Baird says there can't be any "moral equivalence" between a democratic state like Israel and Hamas, which he calls a listed terrorist organization with a blatant disregard for human life.

He says Israel's military has taken extraordinary steps to reduce civilian casualties.

Harper has been a fervent supporter of Israel and a long-time critic of the United Nations and its officials.

Israeli officials have said round-the-clock airstrikes have hit Hamas hard, taking out some of the militant group's rocket-launchers and storage sites.

Israel took action this week in response to what it said was weeks of heavy rocket fire out of the Hamas-controlled Gaza.

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