UNITED NATIONS - The top UN human rights official has called for an independent investigation into violations of international humanitarian law during the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip. "As a first step, credible, independent and transparent investigations must be carried out to identify violations and establish responsibilities," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Friday at a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The session was called to address "the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip." Violations of international humanitarian law may constitute war crimes "for which individual criminal responsibility may be invoked," Pillay added. She also urged Israel and Hamas activists to stop the retaliatory fighting, which is now into its 14th day and has caused massive civilian casualties. "The vicious cycle of provocation and retribution must be brought to an end," she said. The special session was convened following a request from Egypt, on behalf of the Arab Group and the African Group, Pakistan, on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. The session is discussing "the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip". "The vicious cycle of provocation and retribution must be brought to an end," she said, pointing out that the ongoing conflict has already caused the loss of hundreds of lives, and scores, including children, died or were wounded in these attacks. "Ceasefire and the ultimate cessation of hostilities cannot wait a day longer," said Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi of Nigeria, President of the Human Rights Council, when he opened the special session. "The thousands of innocent civilians, particularly children, women and the aged who are caught up in this unacceptable conflict need all the help that they can get to assuage their sufferings. Ceasefire and the ultimate cessation of hostilities cannot wait a day longer," he said. In her address, High Commissioner Pillay stressed unequivocally that international human rights law must apply in all circumstances and at all times. She strongly urged the parties to the conflict "to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law to collect, care for and evacuate the wounded and to protect and respect health workers, hospitals, and medical units and ambulances." "Accountability must be ensured for violations of international law," said the High Commissioner, who suggested that the Council should consider authorising a mission to assess violations committed by both sides in the conflict in order to establish the relevant facts and ensure accountability. "I remind this Council that violations of international humanitarian law may constitute war crime for which individual criminal responsibility may be invoked," she said. The High Commissioner also called on the parties to the conflict to allow the deployment of independent human rights monitors in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory to document any violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. She urged that Special Procedures mandate holders be granted unrestricted access to Gaza and the West Bank. In order for a special session to be convened, the support of one-third of the membership of the Council (16 members or more) is required. A total of 32 Council members have expressed their support for holding the special session. This is the ninth special session of the Human Rights Council. The Council's previous special sessions related to Lebanon, Darfur, Myanmar, the global food crisis, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.