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UN Probe Finds Israel Guilty of ‘Extermination,’ Torture, and Other War Crimes in Gaza

An Israeli airstrike which hit an UNRWA-run school in Nuseirat, Central Gaza. June 2024. Credit: UNRWA

NEW YORK, Jun 13 2024 (IPS) - A United Nations commission tasked with conducting an in-depth investigation of Israeli military actions in the occupied Palestinian territories has concluded that Israel’s government is responsible for multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip, including “extermination,” torture, forcible transfer, and the use of starvation as a weapon of warfare.

The U.N. inquiry began on October 7, the day of a deadly Hamas-led attack on southern Israel. The U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory found that Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes during their attack on Israel, including the deliberate killing and torture of civilians.

Israel’s massive military response—launched hours after the Hamas-led attack—has caused “immense numbers of civilian casualties in Gaza and widespread destruction of civilian objects and infrastructure,” outcomes that “were the inevitable result of a strategy undertaken with intent to cause maximum damage, disregarding the principles of distinction, proportionality and adequate,” the U.N. commission said Wednesday.

“The intentional use of heavy weapons with large destructive capacity in densely populated areas constitutes an intentional and direct attack on the civilian population,” the commission added. Many of the weapons Israel has used in Gaza were supplied by the United States.

The new report also points to public statements by top Israeli officials as evidence that Israel’s goal in Gaza was to inflict “widespread destruction” and kill a “large number of civilians.” The U.N. panel specifically cited Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s October announcement of a “total siege” on the Gaza Strip that would prevent the entry of water, fuel, food, and other necessities.

The International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor has applied for arrest warrants for Gallant and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over war crimes committed in Gaza.

Navi Pillay, the chair of the U.N. commission, said in a statement Wednesday that “Israel must immediately stop its military operations and attacks in Gaza, including the assault on Rafah, which has cost the lives of hundreds of civilians and again displaced hundreds of thousands of people to unsafe locations without basic services and humanitarian assistance.

“Hamas and Palestinian armed groups must immediately cease rocket attacks and release all hostages,” Pillay added. “The taking of hostages constitutes a war crime.”

The commission’s findings come less than a week after U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres informed the Israeli government that it was added to an annual “list of shame” that condemns nations for killing and wounding children in wars.

Children have suffered horrific physical and psychological impacts from Israel’s eight-month assault on Gaza, which has killed around 15,000 children. Earlier this year, the U.N. Children’s Fund estimated that around 1,000 kids in Gaza had lost one or both of their legs as a result of Israeli attacks.

Dozens of children were among the more than 270 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces over the weekend during a raid on Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp. The military operation resulted in the freeing of four Israeli hostages, but the U.N. Human Rights Office said Tuesday that “the manner in which the raid was conducted in such a densely populated area seriously calls into question whether the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution—as set out under the laws of war—were respected by the Israeli forces.”

Doctors Without Borders, known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said Tuesday that Israeli forces have killed more than 800 people in Gaza and wounded more than 2,400 since the beginning of June.

“How can the killing of more than 800 people in a single week, including small children, plus the maiming of hundreds more, be considered a military operation adhering to international humanitarian law?” asked Brice de le Vingne, the head of MSF’s emergency unit. “We can no longer accept the statement that Israel is taking ‘all precautions’—this is just propaganda.”

“Since October (and certainly before), the dehumanization of Palestinians has been a hallmark of this war,” de le Vingne added. “Catch-all phrases like ‘war is ugly’ act as blinders to the fact that children too young to walk are being dismembered, eviscerated, and killed.”

Jake Johnson is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams.

Source: Common Dreams

IPS UN Bureau


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