UN report accuses Israel of war crimes in Gaza

The Israeli armed forces may have violated the laws of war in their campaign in the Gaza Strip, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has announced.

In a report that assessed six Israeli attacks that caused a high number of casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, the OHCHR announced that Israeli forces “may have systematically violated the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precautions in attack”.

“The requirement to select means and methods of warfare that avoid or at the very least minimise to every extent civilian harm appears to have been consistently violated in Israel’s bombing campaign,” stated UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk.

A new report by a United Nations-backed independent commission has also found the Israeli military’s “deliberate” use of heavy weapons in the Gaza Strip has been an “intentional and direct attack on the civilian population”.

Navi Pillay, chairperson of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said on Wednesday that Israel has committed crimes against humanity, forced starvation, extermination, murder, and inhuman and cruel treatment of Palestinians. She also accused Palestinian groups of war crimes.

As she presented the report to the UN Human Rights Council, Pillay said the Israeli military operating in Gaza “forcibly transferred almost the entire population into a small enclosure that is unsafe and uninhabitable” and used heavy weapons in densely populated areas in “an intentional and direct attack on the civilian population”.

Pillay stated the commission concluded that specific forms of sexual and gender-based violence constituted part of the Israeli forces’ operating procedures.

“Although Israeli officials have repeatedly stated their operations in Gaza are intended to destroy Hamas and release hostages, yet neither of these aims has been largely achieved at the expense of thousands of lives,” she added.

“We found that Israeli forces committed sexual and gender-based violence with the intent to humiliate and further subordinate the Palestinian community. Palestinian women were targeted and subjected to sexual violence and harassment online and in person.”

“Men and boys experienced specific persecutory acts, including sexual and gender-based violence amounting to torture and inhuman and cruel treatment,” she continued.

Pillay also noted that the daily onslaught in Gaza must not sideline attention to a parallel wave of violence in the occupied West Bank.

The strikes come as the US confirms it has continued to send weapons to Israel, save for the one shipment of 2,000-pound bombs it is currently reviewing.

Flouting a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire, Israel has faced international condemnation amid its continued brutal offensive on Gaza since an Oct. 7, 2023 attack by Hamas.

Nearly 37,400 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, most of them women and children, and more than 85,500 others injured, according to local health authorities.

More than eight months into the Israeli war, vast tracts of Gaza lay in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine.

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