Israel, Hamas accused of war crimes in new UN report

Israel and Hamas have been accused of multiple war crimes and human rights abuses since October 7 in a new independent report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The damning charges, compiled by investigators from the United Nations Commission of Inquiry, accuse both sides of war crimes by increasing attacks against civilians and “murder or intentional murder”.

The report, which runs until the end of 2023, specifically accuses Israel of crimes against humanity for torture, “extermination” and “gender repression targeting Palestinian men and boys.”

Israel rejected the report’s findings and accused the committee of pursuing “a narrow political agenda” against the report.

Investigators have compiled a report that will be presented to the United Nations human rights council next week, drawing on hours of interviews with victims and witnesses, medical reports and open-source information.

The panel, led by former UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, said Israel’s use of heavy weapons in populated areas constituted a war crime because it was a direct attack on civilians aimed at the purpose of causing “maximum damage, disregarding the principles of distinction and proportionality”. and appropriate precautions”.

Israel is also accused of a number of other war crimes, including starvation, arbitrary detention, and the killing and maiming of “tens of thousands of children.” The report also said Israel had weaponized a “total siege” aimed at restricting power, food and water to civilians, which it said amounted to “collective punishment”.

Other crimes against humanity committed by Israel, the authors say, include “extermination, murder, gender repression targeting Palestinian men and boys, forced population displacement, torture, torture and cruel and inhumane treatment”.

Hamas was also accused of numerous abuses in the October 7 attacks, which left 1,200 people dead and 251 others kidnapped. The report said there was evidence of widespread sexual violence against Israeli women and a pattern of mass killings in public shelters.

“Many of the kidnappings were carried out with significant levels of physical, mental and sexual violence as well as degrading and humiliating treatment, including taunting of the detainees,” the report said. kidnapping in some cases”. “Women and women’s bodies were used by men as trophies.”

Israeli forces were also accused of sexual violence for publicly stripping Palestinians, which investigators said was intended to “humiliate the community at large and emphasize the subordination of the occupied people.” “.

Israel – which refused to cooperate with the investigation – quickly rejected the report, alleging “systematic anti-Israel discrimination”.

Meirav Eilon Shahar, the organization’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, accused the committee of seeking to create false equivalence between Hamas and the Israeli military regarding sexual violence.

Hamas has yet to comment on this allegation.

The report itself does not carry any penalties, but it could be used to prosecute Israeli and Hamas leaders in the future.

Michael Becker, professor of international human rights law at Trinity College Dublin, told the BBC that the International Criminal Court (ICC) – which has issued arrest warrants for the leaders of Israel and Hamas – would likely Based on the report to find new investigation directions. may pursue its investigation, but it is unlikely to serve as “direct evidence” in the case.

He added that there was “no doubt” that South Africa would direct the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to consider the report as part of a separate case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

He noted that the ICJ “usually refers to these types of reports in its decisions”, but warned that South Africa would have to convince the judges that the report was “methodologically sound”.

Speaking after the report was published, Ms Pillay said it was “imperative” that anyone accused of committing crimes during the conflict be “held accountable”.

“The only way to prevent recurring cycles of violence, including aggression and retaliation by both sides, is to ensure strict compliance with international law,” she added.

Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri and Ismail Haniyeh were subject to arrest warrants issued by the ICC for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant were also subject to similar orders. Wednesday’s report specifically attacked the rhetoric used by some unnamed Israeli officials, which it said could be “inflammatory” and could constitute “serious international crimes.” other”.

According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, more than 37,120 people have been killed in Gaza since the conflict began.

Meanwhile, the United Nations is preparing to add the Israeli army, Hamas and the Palestinian armed wing Islamic Jihad to the list of criminals. Violation of children’s rights for the first time

The annual report – seen by the BBC and to be published on Thursday – aims to humiliate the parties into committing to measures outlined by the United Nations to protect children.


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