UN: Both sides may have committed ‘war crimes’ in Gaza

UN investigators say Israel and Palestinian groups committed serious abuses during 2014 war

An independent U.N. commission of inquiry has found that both Israel and Palestinian groups committed serious abuses during last year’s conflagrations in Gaza that could amount to “war crimes.”

The commission on Monday released its report on the 50-day conflict that began in July 2014.

“The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come,” the chair of the commission, New York judge Mary McGowan Davis, said in a statement.

The report decried the “huge firepower” used in Gaza, with Israel launching more than 6,000 airstrikes and firing 50,000 artillery shells during the operation.

“The commission is concerned that impunity prevails across the board for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law allegedly committed by Israeli forces,” the report said.

“Israel must break with its recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable, not only as a means to secure justice for victims but also to ensure the necessary guarantees for non-repetition,” the report continued.

“With regard to Palestinian armed groups, the commission has serious concerns with regard to the inherently indiscriminate nature of most of the projectiles directed towards Israel by these groups and to the targeting of civilians, which violate international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime,” it added.

The investigators also condemned Palestinian armed groups for executing those suspected of collaborating with Israel.

The commission, composed of chair Davis and Senegalese lawyer and human rights expert Doudou Diene, was launched a year ago at the request of the Palestinians.

“We must remember that the victims are not just numbers ... they are individual people,” Davis said as she released the report in Geneva.

A cease-fire last August ended the fighting between Gaza fighters and Israel. 

The United Nations has previously said that most of the 2,139 Palestinians killed in the conflict were civilians, while 66 Israeli soldiers, six Israeli civilians and one Thai national were also killed.

Smoke rises while an apartment tower collapses following an Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City Aug. 23, 2014.
Adel Hana / AP

Israeli airstrikes and shelling hammered the densely populated enclave dominated by the Hamas movement, causing widespread destruction of homes and schools. Gaza fighters fired thousands of rockets and mortar bombs into Israel.

Pre-empting the findings of the U.N. report, Israel defended its conduct in the 2014 Gaza war as both “lawful“ and “legitimate” in a detailed inter-ministerial report released earlier this month.

“Hamas' strategy was to deliberately draw the hostilities into the urban terrain, and to use built-up areas and the presence of the civilian population for tactical advantage and political gain,” the Israeli 242-page document said.

In a statement, the Israeli foreign ministry said, “the entire process that led to the production of this report was politically motivated and morally flawed from the outset. It is regrettable that the report fails to recognize the profound difference between Israel’s moral behavior ... and the terror organizations it confronted.”

Gaza's Hamas rulers also rejected the report, with senior official Ghazi Hamad saying that its rockets and mortars were aimed at Israeli military sites, not at civilians.

Hamad also criticized the report for what he said was a false balance between victims and killers.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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