Explainer: Why a UN Special Rapporteur Believes the Israel-Hamas Conflict Constitutes Genocide Features
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Explainer: Why a UN Special Rapporteur Believes the Israel-Hamas Conflict Constitutes Genocide

A report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council this week shines a distressing light on the catastrophic human toll and the systematic destruction in Gaza following military operations by Israel. In the report, entitled Anatomy of a Genocide, Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, detailed the toll of the staggering loss of life, widespread injury, and destruction that has engulfed Gaza in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. “The only reasonable inference that can be drawn from the unveiling of this policy is an Israeli state policy of genocidal violence toward the Palestinian people in Gaza,” Francesca Albanese said during a press conference this week. 

In this explainer, we will review the Albanese’s key findings, including some 30,000 dead — including 13,000 children — and 71,000 injured, as well as the displacement of an estimated 80% of the population of Gaza, to understand how she arrived at the haunting conclusion that: “Following nearly 6 months of unrelenting Israeli assault on occupied Gaza, it is my solemn duty to report on the worst of what humanity is capable of…”

Evidence of Intended Genocide

The report is unequivocal in its conclusion that the patterns of violence and the policies enacted by Israel in Gaza meet the threshold for genocide. It is noted that the jus in bello (laws on conduct during warfare) principles, which are designed to protect those not participating in hostilities, were intentionally distorted. Albanese further states that “There are reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold indicating Israel’s commission of genocide is met.” (Para 7). High-level directives and statements of genocidal intent were pinpointed, illustrating a systemic blueprint towards the eradication of the Palestinian identity and presence in Gaza.

The report by the Special Rapporteur provides a succinct and impactful examination of the acts and intentions behind what is identified as genocidal acts in Gaza. Albanese categorizes the atrocities into three principal actions, directly quoting from the definitions that constitute genocide (Para 17):

  1. Killing members of the group: This part of the documentation highlights the loss of life within the Palestinian community, pointing to a deliberate action aimed at reducing the population.
  2. Causing serious bodily and mental harm: Here, the focus is on both the physical injuries and the psychological trauma inflicted on Palestinians, evidencing a strategy to debilitate the community not just physically but also mentally.
  3. Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part: Albanses further discusses how the environment and living conditions have been manipulated or destroyed, creating a scenario where life itself becomes unsustainable, pointing towards a methodical approach to eroding the foundations of Palestinian society.

Moreover, Albanese discusses the intent behind these acts, arguing that both direct and indirect evidence demonstrates a genocidal intent. Direct evidence is highlighted as “uniquely present,” (para 50) indicating clear and unambiguous actions and statements aiming at the destruction of the Palestinian group. Meanwhile, indirect intent is evidenced through a “manifest pattern of similar conduct over time,” (Para 48) suggesting a systematic approach and a preconceived plan or policy aimed at the annihilation of Palestinians.

Albanese’s report not only outlines the grave situation in Gaza but also frames it within the broader historical context of settler colonialism, implying a deliberate and ongoing strategy to displace and destroy the Palestinian population (Para 8+9).

Legal and Ethical Implications

This detailed account of deliberate actions to decimate a group not only breaches international humanitarian law but also dictates a pressing need for accountability. The invocation of genocidal acts under the guise of counterterrorism, as highlighted in the report, represents a profound moral and legal crisis. Such actions contravene the foundational principles of the Geneva Conventions and the Genocide Convention.

Recommendations for Action

The rapporteur calls for immediate, decisive international intervention. Key recommendations include an arms embargo on Israel, comprehensive sanctions, and a concerted effort to ensure accountability through international legal mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court (ICC). Moreover, reparations and a structured rebuilding plan for Gaza are advocated to address both the physical and psychosocial devastation.


The ramifications of Albanese’s report demand a deep introspection on the part of the international community regarding its role and responsibility in preventing such egregious violations of human rights. Her findings not only illuminate the dire reality of the situation in Gaza but also serve as a clarion call for immediate action to reverse a generational tragedy.


Reflecting on the substance of the report, it’s imperative to consider the underlying causes and persisting enablers of such conflicts. The broader geopolitical dynamics, the sustained blockade of Gaza, and the international community’s tepid response to previous warnings have all culminated in a disaster foretold. This report, in its stark revelation of a genocide, underscores the urgency for a reassessment of policies and support mechanisms to prevent further atrocities.

Commenting on the report the Israel Mission to the UN in Geneva said:

Israel utterly rejects the report. It is simply an extension of a campaign seeking to undermine the very establishment of the Jewish State. Instead of seeking the truth, this Special Rapporteur tries to fit weak arguments to her distorted and obscene inversion of reality. It is yet another stain on her biased mandate, and only brings the Human Rights Council further into disrepute.