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UN report criticises Israel and Palestinian groups

26 June 2015


Rescuing the holy text: a Palestinian youth carries damaged copies of the Qur'an, found in the rubble of a mosque destroyed in an overnight Israeli strike in Gaza City, during last year's violence

Rescuing the holy text: a Palestinian youth carries damaged copies of the Qur'an, found in the rubble of a mosque destroyed in an overnight Israeli ...

BOTH Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza are severely criticised in a report by a United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry into the 2014 Gaza conflict, which was published this week.

It cites "substantial information", pointing to the possible commission of war crimes by the two sides, saying that suspected war criminals "at all levels of the political and military establishments" should be brought to justice. In the view of the inquiry, "countries should actively support the work of the International Criminal Court in relation to the Occupied Palestinian Territory".

Israel said that it would study the findings seriously, but upheld its scepticism of such UN investigations, calling the body "a notoriously biased institution". A government statement noted that it was "well known that the entire process that led to the production of this report was politically motivated and morally flawed from the outset".

The Israeli government said that it was regrettable that the UN inquiry did not highlight the "profound difference between Israel's moral behaviour" and that of "the terror organisations it confronted".

A spokesman for Hamas said that the group welcomed "the report's condemnation of the Zionist occupier for its war crimes during the last war against Gaza". The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, urged "the international community to recall that the only true path to peace lies in ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, and in ending crime and the impunity with which it continues to be perpetrated against our people".

Justice Mary McGowan Davis, who chaired the inquiry, said that the "extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented". She said that "there is also ongoing fear in Israel among communities who come under regular threat" from armed groups in Gaza.

The UN reports that Israel carried out more than 6000 airstrikes, and fired about 50,000 tank and artillery shells into Gaza, during the 51-day operation in July and August 2014. A total of 1462 Palestinian civilians were killed, one third of them children. Palestinian armed groups fired 4881 rockets and 1753 mortars towards Israel, killing six civilians and injuring at least 1600.

The UN report says that hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed in their own homes, the majority of them women and children. Survivors gave graphic testimony, describing air-strikes that reduced buildings to piles of dust and rubble in seconds.

"I woke up . . . in the hospital, and I later learned that my sister, mother, and my children had all died," a member of the Al Najjar family said, after an attack in Khan Younis on 26 July that killed 19 of his relatives. "We all died that day, even those who survived."

At least 142 families lost three or more members in an attack on a residential building that resulted in 742 deaths. The UN commission said: "The fact that Israel did not revise its practice of air-strikes, even after their dire effects on civilians became apparent, raises the question of whether this was part of a broader policy which was at least tacitly approved at the highest level of government."

The commission expressed its concern at Israel's "extensive use of weapons with a wide kill-and-injury radius; though not illegal, their use in densely populated areas is highly likely to kill combatants and civilians indiscriminately.

"There appears also to be a pattern whereby the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] issued warnings to people to leave a neighbourhood and then automatically considered anyone remaining to be a fighter", a practice that made attacks on civilians highly likely.

The UN report said that the 2014 hostilities also caused "immense distress and disruption to the lives of civilians in Israel". The indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets and mortars at Israel "appeared to have the intention of spreading terror among civilians there".

The commission was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in September 2014 to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human-rights law in the context of the military operations.

International law  - Leader comment

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