‘Israel Responsible for War Crimes in Gaza’ – UN Commission of Inquiry Report 

Israel continued to bomb Gaza. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

The report found that the crimes against humanity of extermination, gender persecution targeting Palestinian men and boys, murder, forcible transfer, and torture and inhuman and cruel treatment were also committed.

Israeli authorities are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the military assault on the Gaza Strip since October 7, according to a UN Commission of Inquiry.

In a new report released on Wednesday, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, found that “Israeli authorities are responsible for the war crimes of starvation as a method of warfare, murder or wilful killing, intentionally directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, forcible transfer, sexual violence, torture and inhuman or cruel treatment, arbitrary detention and outrages upon personal dignity.”

It also found that the crimes against humanity of extermination, gender persecution targeting Palestinian men and boys, murder, forcible transfer, and torture and inhuman and cruel treatment were also committed, according to a press statement from the UN Human Rights Council.

The report is the UN’s first in-depth investigation of the events on and since October 7, 2023.

It is based on interviews with victims and witnesses conducted remotely and during a mission to Türkiye and Egypt, thousands of open-source items verified through advanced forensic analysis, hundreds of submissions, satellite imagery and forensic medical reports.

The Commission  “met with more than 70 victims and witnesses, more than two thirds of them women.”

Israel Hindered Probe

Israel obstructed the Commission’s investigations and prevented its access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the statement said.

The Commission also found that Palestinian armed groups “are responsible for war crimes committed in Israel.”

“It is imperative that all those who have committed crimes be held accountable,” said Navi Pillay, Chair of the Commission. “The only way to stop the recurring cycles of violence, including aggression and retribution by both sides, is to ensure strict adherence to international law.”

Pillay said, “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.”

He added that Hamas and other resistance groups “must immediately cease rocket attacks and release all hostages. The taking of hostages constitutes a war crime,” he added.

Rape Allegations

On allegations of gender-based violence against Hamas related to the incidents of October 7, the Commission “reviewed testimonies obtained by journalists and the Israeli police concerning rape but has not been able to independently verify such allegations, due to a lack of access to victims, witnesses and crime sites and the obstruction of its investigations by the Israeli authorities.”

It said the Commission “was unable to review the unedited version of such testimonies. For the same reasons, the Commission was also unable to verify reports of sexualized torture and genital mutilation.”

Additionally, the Commission “found some specific allegations to be false, inaccurate or contradictory with other evidence or statements and discounted these from its assessment.”

Attacks on Civilians

The report said “crucial differences” from previous hostilities should be noted, including that Israel has forcibly displaced at least 1.7 million Palestinians, as well as the massive scale of the fatalities and destruction.

“Hostilities between 2005 and 2023 resulted in less than a tenth of the fatalities since 7 October,” it stated. 

The Commission also observed “an increasing trend” in the number of fatalities of women and children compared with previous hostilities attributing it to the Israeli military’s  “air bombardment campaign and its frequent use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area in populated districts.”

“This disproportionate effect was identified previously by the 2014 Gaza Commission of Inquiry and thus was foreseen but not prevented,” the report said.

Dahya Doctrine

The Commission found that the Israeli bombardment strategy “also appears consistent with the application of the so-called ‘Dahya doctrine’ to the Gaza Strip.” The doctrine is reportedly a strategy used by Israel during the second Lebanon war in 2006, encompassing the use of overwhelming and disproportionate force against civilian areas and infrastructure as a means of restraining and deterring Hezbollah.

The body investigated several large-scale attacks on civilian targets in the Gaza Strip which “are indicative of the use of this doctrine” and documented tens of other attacks, including on aid organizations, convoys and refuge sites.

In many of these cases, the Commission “could not identify military targets as the focus of the attacks.”

“Even when military targets were allegedly present, attacks lacked distinction, proportionality and precautions, resulting in thousands killed and injured and widespread destruction of entire neighborhoods including in Jabalia, Al-Rimal, Al-Yarmouk and Al-Maghazi,” the report said.

Additionally, the Commission investigated cases in which ISF ground forces killed civilians who posed no threat, including holding white flags.

Statements of Incitement

The report found that statements made by Israeli officials – including those reflecting the policy of inflicting widespread destruction and killing large numbers of civilians – amounted to incitement and may constitute other serious international crimes, the press statement said.

“The Commission documented statements by Israeli officials dehumanizing the Palestinians in Gaza, portraying all Palestinians in Gaza as Hamas militants or Hamas supporters, discussing a second Nakba, proposing the transfer of the civilian population outside the Gaza Strip and re-establishing Israeli settlements,” the Commission’s report stated.

Although Israel issued hundreds of evacuation orders to people in north Gaza and other locations, the Commission found that they were at times “insufficient, unclear and conflicting, and did not provide adequate time for safe evacuations.”

Furthermore, the evacuation routes and the areas designated as safe were consistently attacked by Israeli forces. All of this, the Commission determined, amounted to forcible transfer.

The Commission determined that Israel imposed a “total siege” which amounts to collective punishment against the civilian population.

“Israeli authorities have weaponized the siege and used the provision of life-sustaining necessities, including by severing water, food, electricity, fuel and humanitarian assistance, for strategic and political gains,” the statement said.

The siege has disproportionately impacted pregnant women and persons with disabilities, with serious harm inflicted on children leading to preventable child deaths from starvation including newborns.

Gender-based Violence

The report found that specific forms of sexual and gender-based violence constitute part of Israeli forces’ operating procedures. It made the finding due to the frequency, prevalence and severity of the violations, which include public stripping and nudity intended to humiliate the community at large and accentuate the subordination of an occupied people.

The Israeli forces “forced public stripping and nudity in many locations, in humiliating circumstances, including when victims were; blindfolded, kneeling and/or with their hands tied behind their back while in underwear; interrogated or subjected to verbal or physical abuse while fully or partially undressed; coerced to do physical movements while naked; and filmed or photographed by ISF (Israeli security forces) doing any of these acts and disseminating the film and photographs.”

“Both male and female victims were subjected to such sexual violence, but men and boys were targeted in particular ways. Only males were repeatedly filmed and photographed by soldiers while subjected to forced public stripping and nudity, sexual torture and inhumane or cruel treatment,” the report said.

In the West Bank, the Commission found that Israeli forces committed acts of sexual violence, torture and inhuman or cruel treatment and outrages upon personal dignity, all of which are war crimes.

Furthermore, the Commission found that the government of Israel and Israeli forces permitted, fostered and instigated a campaign of settler violence against Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

Effects on Children

The Commission found that attacks on densely populated residential areas and refugee camps have resulted in thousands of children losing one or both parents and being separated from their families in the chaos of hostilities.

Almost 3,000 Children at Risk of Death in Gaza – UNICEF

“As of February 2024, at least 17,000 children were unaccompanied or separated from their parents. According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, at least 15,173 children in Gaza have lost one or both parents since 7 October.”

It said the health, educational and social effects for children will be lifelong and impact generations.

“The Commission is concerned by the long-term psychological impact on children who are suffering from increasing symptoms of post-traumatic stress.”

Recommendations

In its recommendations, the report calls on the Government of Israel to immediately implement a ceasefire, end the siege of Gaza, ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid and cease the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure.

The Commission calls on Israel to comply fully with its legal obligations set forth in the International Court of Justice orders on provisional measures issued on 26 January 2024, 28 March 2024 and 24 May 2024. In addition, it calls on Israel to, in particular, allow the Commission access to Gaza to conduct investigations.

It also recommended that all State Parties to the Rome Statute cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court.

The Commission’s report will be presented to the Human Rights Council’s 56th session on 19 June 2024 in Geneva.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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2 Comments

  1. To put it bluntly, these are actos of terror, intended to break the Gazan’s psychologically, consistent with similar acts of terror used in North America against the Native Americans, Australia against the Australian First Nations, in Africa against Nama and others. The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, should not shy away from these comparisons. The IDF should be added asap to the list of terrorist organizations, since that is what they’ve inherited from Irgun and the Stern Gang and such.

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