United Nations says Israel’s killing of Gazans may amount to war crimes

United Nations says Israel’s killing of Gazans may amount to war crimes

A UN fact-finding mission says Israeli forces committed rights violations during their crackdown against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip last year that may amount to “war crimes,” urging the regime’s military to prevent its snipers from using lethal force against the demonstrators.

The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory presented its full report on Monday, saying Israeli forces breached international human rights by using live ammunition against unarmed Palestinian protesters during the anti-Israel protests in Gaza.

The Israeli forces “committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” said UN Commissioner Kaari Betty Murungi. “Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”

Tensions erupted in Gaza on March 30, 2018, which marked the start of a series of protests, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

The clashes reached their peak on May 14 that year, the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe), which coincided with the controversial US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

The violence left 189 Palestinians dead and thousands more injured between March 30 and December 31, 2018.

The 252-page report scrutinizes the Israeli military’s directives for its snipers to use of lethal force against Palestinians demonstrating along the border fence between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied territories.

There are “reasonable grounds” to believe that Israeli troops “killed and gravely injured civilians who were neither directly participating in hostilities nor posing an imminent threat,” the report said.

“The Commission found there was no justification for Israel’s … forces killing and injuring persons who pose no imminent threat of death or serious injury to those around them, including journalists, health workers and children,” said Santiago Canton, the chair of the commission.

When examining the Israeli troops’ use of live fire against Palestinian protesters, Canton said, the commission found that “application of lethal force was in the majority of cases authorized unlawfully. This inevitably led to arbitrary deprivation of life.”

The commission said Israeli snipers used high velocity bullets and long-range sniper rifles equipped with sophisticated optical aiming devices, adding that the snipers’ firing of such ammunition also injured 6,106 Palestinians, inflicting many life-changing wounds.

“The snipers killed 32 children, three clearly marked paramedics, and two clearly marked journalists. They shot at unarmed protesters, children and disabled persons, and at health workers and journalists performing their duties, knowing who they were,” she said.

She further called on the Tel Aviv regime to avoid “excessive use of force” in dealing with Palestinian protesters.

The report censured Israel for having “consistently failed to meaningfully investigate and prosecute commanders and soldiers for crimes and violations committed against Palestinians.”

“Israel’s record for investigating deaths of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is dismal,” it said.

UN panel lists Israelis suspected of war crimes

The panel said it had compiled a list of Israelis suspected of serious crimes that it will make available to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other concerned bodies.

The high commissioner, Michelle Bachelet of Chile, was authorized to make the database of the alleged offenders accessible to the ICC and other “national authorities that are conducting credible investigations for the purposes of ensuring accountability for crimes and other serious violations committed in this context.”

The ICC is currently conducting a preliminary examination into the “situation in Palestine.”

“Inside this dossier are references to relevant military and civilian structures in Israel which bear primary responsibility for the conduct of” Israeli forces and “their use of lethal force on Palestinians attending the [protests],” the report said.

“Responsibility also lies with those who fail to conduct investigations that meet international standards into the deaths and injuries in violation of [international law] as alleged in this report. As noted, individuals who committed the violations directly, or who aided or ordered them to be committed, are also responsible,” it said.

The report infuriated Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu describing it as “new records for hypocrisy and mendacity.”

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