Israeli security forces may be guilty of war crimes over Palestinian killings in Gaza, UN says


Israeli security forces may have committed war crimes for killing about 200 Palestinians during protests in Gaza last year, the UN said.

"The Israeli security forces killed and mutilated Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injuries to others when they were killed, or were directly involved in hostilities," noted an investigation by the Human Rights Council of United Nations.

About 189 Palestinians were killed and over 6,100 wounded during the clashes in Gaza in 2018.

The demonstrators used the demonstrations to demand the loosening of an Israeli blockade of territory and the recognition of the right of Palestinian refugees there to return to homes in Israel.

Santiago Canton, chairman of the UN commission, said the investigation had "reasonable reasons to believe" that Israeli soldiers "have committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law".

He added: "Some of these violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity and must be immediately investigated by Israel".

Israel, which claimed that the protests were used to mask "terrorist activities" by Palestinian armed groups, dismissed the relationship as "the theater of the absurd".

The country's Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, said that the UN has "produced another hostile, lenient and tilted relationship against the State of Israel".

However, the committee said that the Israeli authorities have ignored repeated requests for information and access to both Israel and Gaza.

Palestinian demonstrators demonstrate near the Israeli border in the northern Gaza strip last October (Getty)

The investigation focused in particular on the demonstrations in the Gaza Strip – called Grande Marcia di Ritorno – which lasted for more than nine months from 30 March to the end of 2018.

He found that of the 189 Palestinian deaths, 183 were attributable to Israeli security forces.

It was said that thirty-five of these deaths were children, three were clearly marked paramedics and two were clearly reported journalists.

While those injured by live ammunition were 6,106, the commission stated that 3,098 others were injured by the fragmentation of bullets, rubber-coated metal bullets or tear gas shots.

The Commission said it had reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers fired at journalists, health workers, children and people with disabilities, despite knowing that they were clearly recognizable as not directly involved in the protest.

But he also accused Hamas of encouraging or defending the use of indiscriminate "kites and incendiary balloons, causing fear among civilians and significant property damage in southern Israel".

Israel has consistently defended its use of force as a means of self-defense, indicating missile attacks against its citizens in cities near the Gaza border.

Yet despite some significant acts of violence and Israeli claims on terrorism, the commission found that the demonstrations were civil in nature and did not constitute military campaigns.

"The burden now is on Israel to investigate any killings and injuries related to the protest, promptly, impartially and independently in accordance with international standards, to determine whether war crimes or crimes against humanity have been committed in order to hold those responsible accountable, "Mr. Canton said.

"We also urge organizers, demonstrators and de facto authorities in Gaza to ensure that the Great Return March is entirely peaceful, as expected."

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, should share the findings with the International Criminal Court (ICC), investigators said.

The court of Aja opened a preliminary investigation into Israel's allegations of human rights violations in the Palestinian territory in 2015.

The results were based on interviews with over 300 victims and witnesses and 8,000 tests, including drone footage.

The Gaza Strip is home to two million Palestinians, most of whom are descendants of stateless persons who fled or were driven out of Israel during its foundation in 1948.

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