Sunday 6/20/21

UN to investigate possible war crimes during Israel-Gaza escalation

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned Israel's actions, along with the rocket attacks on Israel by Islamist Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.
27 May 2021, Palestinian Territories, Khan Yunis City: Yahya Sinwar, leader of the Palestinian Hamas Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip, attends a military parade rally by Hamas military wing 'Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades'. Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images via ZUMA Wire/dpa
Yahya Sinwar, leader of the Hamas Islamist movement in Gaza, attends a military parade by 'Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades'. Photo: Ashraf Amra/dpa.

The UN Human Rights Council issued strongly-worded criticism of Israel and Hamas on Thursday, and its members decided to launch a probe into possible war crimes committed during the recent military escalation in the region.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned Israel's actions, along with the rocket attacks on Israel by Islamist Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the US, the European Union and other countries.

Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire less than a week ago, following the 11-day conflict that left more than 250 people dead in Gaza and 13 in Israel.

Bachelet said that if Israel's airstrikes in Gaza were found to be "indiscriminate and disproportionate" in terms of consequences for civilians and civilian facilities, they could amount to war crimes.

She accused Israeli security forces of using disproportionate force to end demonstrations against threatened forced evictions in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Hamas also violated international humanitarian law by firing rockets indiscriminately at Israel and deploying military material in densely populated areas, Bachelet said.

Israeli security forces

The vast majority of speakers at the Human Rights Council were particularly critical of violence by Israeli security forces.

The council later established a commission of inquiry to investigate possible human rights violations in Israel and the Palestinian territories, despite protests from Israel.

Twenty-four countries voted in favour of the resolution, introduced by Pakistan on behalf of many countries, while Germany and eight others voted against it and 14 abstained.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the move.

"Today's shameful decision is yet another example of the UN Human Rights Council's blatant anti-Israel obsession," he said.

"Once again, an immoral automatic majority at the Council whitewashes a genocidal terrorist organization that deliberately targets Israeli civilians while turning Gaza's civilians into human shields. This while depicting as the 'guilty party' a democracy acting legitimately to protect its citizens from thousands of indiscriminate rocket attacks."

Netanyahu: move 'encourages terrorists'

Netanyahu said "this travesty makes a mockery of international law and encourages terrorists worldwide."

Earlier, Israel had claimed that its air strikes in Gaza targeted buildings used for military purposes. "We have seen no evidence of that," Bachelet said.

Israeli Ambassador Meirav Eilon Shahar rejected all of the accusations, calling Hamas a "murderous extreme terrorist organization" that uses "civilians as human shields."

The UN Human Rights Council had convened for a special session after the escalation.

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