UN Panel: Israel Security Forces Should Face Justice for Gaza Border Deaths
United Nations investigators said on Thursday Israeli security forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in killing 189 Palestinians and wounding more than 6,100 at weekly border demonstrations in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip last year.
The independent panel said it had confidential information about those it believes to be responsible for the deaths, including Israeli army snipers and commanders, and called on Israel to prosecute them.
“The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities,” it said.
In a scathing response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel rejected the report “out of hand” and accused the UN Human Rights Council of hypocrisy and lies fueled by “an obsessive hatred for Israel.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the findings confirmed “what we have always said, that Israel conducts war crimes against our people in Gaza and the West Bank, including in Jerusalem.”
“The International Criminal Court should act immediately and open a probe into the crimes conducted (by Israel),” he stated.
Israel has said its forces opened fire to protect the border from incursions and attacks by armed militants.
The latest report, covering the period from March 30-December 31 2018, to the UN Human Rights Council was based on hundreds of interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as medical records, video and drone footage, and photographs.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet should share their findings with the ICC, the investigators said in the report. Israel is not a member of the ICC and does not recognize its jurisdiction but the Hague-based court opened a preliminary investigation into allegations of Israeli human rights abuses in Palestinian territory in 2015.
“Some of these violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity and must be immediately investigated by Israel,” Argentine legal expert Santiago Canton, who led the panel, said in a statement.
“Our investigation found that the demonstrators were overwhelmingly unarmed even if they were not at all times peaceful,” he told a news briefing.
Thirty-five children, two journalists and three “clearly-marked” paramedics were among those killed by Israeli forces, in violation of international humanitarian law, it said.
“We are saying that they have intentionally shot children. They have intentionally shot people with disabilities, they have intentionally shot journalists,” said panel member Sara Hossain, barrister at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.
“We found that one person, a double amputee, was shot and killed as he sat in his wheelchair. On two separate days, two people visibly walking on crutches, were shot in the head. They were killed,” she added.
Israel says its forces have at times come under gun or grenade attacks during the protests.
“We recommend that the de facto authorities in Gaza stop their use of incendiary kites and balloons,” said panel member Betty Murungi, referring to devices that destroyed some Israeli farmland.
“The call by a UN panel to bring Israeli occupation leaders to justice is evidence that occupation forces conducted crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip,” Hamas official Ismail Rudwan told Reuters in Gaza.