Arbour escapes injury in Palestinian rocket attack

Palestinian militants fired rockets into the Israeli town of Sderot, critically wounding one man on Tuesday, as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour was touring the community.

Palestinian militants fired rockets into the Israeli town of Sderot, critically wounding one man on Tuesday, asUN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour was touringthe community.

An injured Israeli man in the town of Sderot is tended to by a paramedic after being wounded by a Palestinian rocket. ((Tsafrir Abayov/Associated Press))

Arbour, a former Supreme Court of Canada justice, was not hurt when rockets landed a few hundred metresaway from her entourage at a factory, but aworker at the facility was seriously injured.

After Arbour's group heard a loud explosion and saw plumes of smoke, Israeli rescue officials immediately rushed to the scene.

"I was on the outskirts of a factory immediately after it was hit," Arbour said.

"I understand somebody was seriously wounded and so I think first of all I want to express my deepest sympathy for the people, for the family of the person who was wounded and say how much I share their sense of hopelessness, and vulnerability and frustration, frankly, to have been so exposed."

The armed wing of the militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, saying it was not aware that Arbour was visiting the town.

Arbour's spokesperson, Jose Diaz, said she came to Sderot to show that civilians are at risk on both sides of the conflict. She personally saw what that means this morning, he said.

"We got somewhat of an impression of what people in Sderot are living through on an almost daily basis," said Diaz.

Countries have a duty to protect their citizens, but they must doit within the confines of international law, he said.

Visit met with anger

Arbour is on a five-day tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

She started her tour Monday in the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun, where she met with the families of 19 Palestinian civilians killed by errant Israeli artillery fire.

Palestinian women look at the damage to the Gaza City house of Hamas militant Aymen Hassanin after he was killed in an Israeli army raid. ((Hatem Moussa/Associated Press))

She angered Israeli officials by condemning Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip and told Palestiniansthat the world has not abandoned them.

On Tuesday, after the rocket attack, she expressed sympathy for Israelis in Sderot, a town that Israeli officials say has been targeted by at least 1,000 Palestinian Kassam rockets since the start of the year.

Arbour, who continued her tour with the mayor of Sderot, got an angry reception from a few residents who believe the United Nationsis biased against Israel. Some people pounded on her car, while several workers at a chicken-slaughtering plant threw stones at her vehicle and shouted curses when she came to see the result of Palestinian rocket fire firsthand.

Arbour later visited a bomb shelter in Sderot and was to visit Israeli security checkpoints separating the West Bank and Israel.

She'll also meet with Israel's foreign minister and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Hours earlier, Israeli troops launched a raid against a Palestinian militant stronghold in the Gaza Strip, killing a Hamas gunman and an elderly Palestinian woman, according to Palestinian hospital officials.

With files from the Associated Press