UN investigative report accuses Israel of committing 'crimes against humanity'

UN investigative report accuses Israel of committing 'crimes against humanity'

GENEVA: U.N.-backed human rights experts say in a report issued Wednesday that Israeli forces have committed crimes against humanity.

The independent experts, in a detailed chronicling of events that have mostly been reported in the media, said Israeli forces have committed war crimes in Gaza. The independent Commission of Inquiry's report is the United Nations' first in-depth investigation into the events of the ongoing war.

In their actions in Gaza, the commission found the Israeli authorities "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".

Starvation will affect the Gaza population, particularly children, "for decades to come", the report said, while "the siege it imposed... constitutes collective punishment and reprisal against the civilian population, both of which are clear violations of IHL."

It noted “a widespread or systematic attack directed against the civilian population in Gaza”.

The report said that frequency, prevalence and severity of sexual and gender-based crimes against Palestinians by Israeli security forces during the period late last year amounted to signs that some forms of such violence "are part of ISF operating procedures."

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".

Israel's government and forces "permitted, fostered and instigated a campaign of settler violence against Palestinian communities" in the territory, the commission added.

The report is based on interviews with victims and witnesses conducted remotely, and in Turkey and Egypt, and through studying thousands of verified open-source items, satellite imagery and forensic medical reports, the commission said.

"Israel obstructed the commission's investigations and prevented its access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory," it added.

Israel, which has refused to cooperate with the body and accused it of bias, rejected the allegations.

The report, which covered the time between the Oct. 7 attack and the end of last year, also alleged military wings of Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups of performing "deliberate killings" and mistreatment of civilians and hostage-takings which amount to war crimes.

Despite noting denials by Hamas' military wing, and several investigative reports that debunked the allegations put forth by Israeli eyewitnesses without any evidence, the report said that it found significant evidence to conclude that "sexual and gender-based violence" was committed by Hamas militants.

The report further noted that Israeli authorities “failed to protect civilians in southern Israel on almost every front”.

The expert panel was commissioned in 2021 by the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council to look into rights violations and abuses in Israel and the Palestinian areas it controls. Led by Navi Pillay, a former U.N. human rights chief, they are independent experts and do not speak for the world body itself. Israel has refused to cooperate with the team of experts.

Israel's diplomatic mission in Geneva responded that the report "outrageously and repugnantly attempts to draw a false equivalence between IDF soldiers and Hamas terrorists with regards to acts of sexual violence" and reiterating longstanding claims of anti-Israel discrimination by the experts.

Israel's response to the UN report marked the latest sign of the growing gulf between the two parties as the former have come under constant criticism by the international agency for its brutal war in Gaza.

On Tuesday, the U.N. human rights office — which is separate from the panel of independent experts — cited possible war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in connection with a military operation in which the Israeli military personnel disguised as humanitarian aid workers entered a refugee camp in Gaza, as reported by The Times of Israel, and massacred more than 300 Palestinians most of them women and children. Israel also rescued four of its hostages taken captive by Hamas in its October 7 attack. This was the first notable win for the Israeli military in its eight month long war in Gaza that killed more than 36,000 Palestinians including more than 15,000 children.