What We Know About the U.N. Report on Israeli and Palestinian War Crimes

A commission at the United Nations published a report on Wednesday detailing acts of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, accusing both sides of war crimes and arguing that the immense loss of life in the Gaza Strip amounted to a crime against humanity.

The report consisted of two parallel investigations, one focused on the Oct. 7 attack on Israel led by the armed Palestinian group Hamas, and the other on Israel’s military response. It is one of the most detailed examinations thus far of the conflict and provides legal analysis that is likely to be used in future criminal proceedings related to the war in Gaza.

Here is a closer look at the commission’s findings.

According to the report, 800 civilians were among the more than 1,200 killed by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups involved in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. More than 250 additional people — including 36 children — were taken hostage, the commission said.

The commission accused Israeli forces of responding to the Hamas-led attacks in such a way that amounted to collective punishment against Palestinians, with a lethal toll on civilians that constituted a crime against humanity. The Ministry of Health in Gaza said more than 37,000 people are now dead, though it does not distinguish between civilians and combatants.

The commission said both sides were responsible for killing civilians despite their identifying themselves as noncombatants.

The report also highlighted the conflict’s heavy toll on children, not only in terms of those killed by both sides, but also in the large number who were orphaned.

It accused Israel of failing to ensure the ability to collect forensic evidence, particularly in regards to the accusations of sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas, “undermining the possibility of future judicial proceedings, accountability and justice.”

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry was led by Navi Pillay, a former U.N. human rights chief; Chris Sidoti, an Australian expert on human rights law; and Miloon Kothari, an Indian expert on human rights and social policy.

The three-person panel conducted interviews with victims and witnesses and also examined satellite imagery, forensic medical records and open-source data like photographs and videos.

The panel noted that Israel did not participate in the inquiry and had accused the commission of bias. The commission also said Israel obstructed its efforts to communicate with key witnesses in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Because it was unable to enter Gaza, the commission conducted many of its interviews remotely. It also met with victims and witnesses who escaped to Egypt and Turkey to flee the conflict.

The commission said the widespread use of heavy weapons, air and artillery strikes in densely populated areas of the Gaza Strip made vast civilian casualties inevitable and constituted “an intentional and direct attack on the civilian population, particularly affecting women and children.”

Israel acted “with intent to cause maximum damage,” and did not take precautions or consider the proportionality of its actions, the report said.

After analyzing 80 of Israel’s evacuation orders between October and December 2023, the commission said Israel had not provided the protections civilians in Gaza had a right to expect by following its instructions. Evacuees “were targeted along the evacuation routes and in designated safe zones,” the commission said. It added that some of the evacuation orders indicated “an intent to forcibly transfer the population,” which could be a crime against humanity.

Pointing to the siege on Gaza, the commission said Israel had “used starvation as a method of war.” It added, “Israel has weaponized the withholding of life-sustaining necessities, cutting off supplies of water, food, electricity, fuel and other essential supplies, including humanitarian assistance. This constitutes collective punishment and reprisal against the civilian population.”

In the case of Hamas and other Palestinian militants involved in the Oct. 7 attack — including civilians who joined in crossing into Israel — the commission has accused the groups of intentionally abducting and killing civilians. It also said that “many abductions were carried out with significant physical, mental and sexual violence.” The commission documented extensive accusations of sexual violence by the Oct. 7 attackers, which is a violation of international humanitarian law and can be considered a war crime.

The report also said that Israeli soldiers who were sick, wounded, captured or otherwise incapacitated from fighting were killed, which could also constitute a war crime.

The report said militants from Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups had used sexual violence, particularly against women. It reviewed images of bodies partly or completely undressed that showed signs of such abuse. It also said it had obtained reliable witness accounts that described exposed genitals and women whose hands had been tied.

The commission said it was unable to independently verify the accusations of rape, sexualized torture or genital mutilation that had been reported in the news media. It noted that Israel blocked its access to witnesses, crime scenes and unedited versions of recorded testimonies.

The cases of sexual violence were “not isolated incidents but perpetrated in similar ways in several locations,” the report said. However, the commission said it had found no credible evidence that militants were ordered to commit sexual violence on Oct. 7.

The commission accused Israel of sexual- and gender-based violence during its offensive in Gaza, including torture, abuse and sexual humiliation.

Detained Palestinians were forced to “walk completely or partially undressed” in front of the public and to walk completely or partly undressed “while subjected to sexual harassment,” it said.

Most of these acts were perpetrated against men and boys, the commission said, while Palestinian women also experienced psychological violence and sexual harassment.

The commission said that Hamas had rejected all accusations that its forces used sexual violence against Israeli women during the Oct. 7 attack.

Israel’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva said the report was “reflective of the systematic anti-Israel discrimination of this commission of inquiry.”

Israel said the commission had ignored Hamas’s use of civilians as “human shields,” an accusation the report briefly addressed by noting that there was not enough evidence to substantiate claims that militants had embedded in the civilian population on a widespread scale.

The Israeli mission also said the commission had “outrageously and repugnantly” drawn a false equivalence between Hamas and the Israeli military in relation to sexual violence.

Israel,Gaza Strip,United Nations,Hamas,Palestinians,Civilian Casualties,Israel-Gaza War (2023- ),War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity,Sex Crimes,Terrorism,Defense and Military Forces,Refugees and Displaced Persons,Kidnapping and Hostages,Human Rights and Human Rights Violations,Torture, #U.N #Report #Israeli #Palestinian #War #Crimes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *