A UN independent commission stated on Tuesday that there is “already clear evidence that war crimes may have been committed” by “all sides” in the recent outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas. The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory said that anyone who has broken international law “must be held accountable for their crimes.” Since Hamas militants entered Israeli territory and began firing rockets from Gaza in the early hours of October 7, more than 1,200 Israelis have been killed.
The commission also said on Tuesday, “Reports that armed groups from Gaza have gunned down hundreds of unarmed civilians are abhorrent and cannot be tolerated. Taking civilian hostages and using civilians as human shields are war crimes.” It is estimated that Hamas has taken over 100 Israeli citizens hostage in direct violation of international law. Commenting on this, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk stated, “International humanitarian law is clear: the obligation to take constant care to spare the civilian population and civilian objects remains applicable throughout the attacks.”
Israel declared a state of war on Sunday following the Hamas-led attacks. Shortly thereafter, Israel ordered a “complete siege on Gaza.” The commission expressed concern on Tuesday over the announcement of the Gaza siege. They focused on the “withholding of water, food, electricity, and fuel” because of the cost to civilian lives and said the siege constituted “collective punishment.” On Wednesday, Gaza officials told CNN that the region’s sole power station had run out of fuel, ceasing the flow of electricity through Gaza.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a longstanding issue within the Middle East and has had a serious impact on Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict has been centered around political, historical and religious factors, as both sides have competing claims over the same land. Prior to the outbreak of the war, tensions in the region had been steadily rising over the establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied areas in the West Bank.
The commission and Türk have urged both Israeli and Palestinian forces to adhere to international humanitarian and human rights law. Türk stated, “The world cannot afford more polarisation. We need to find solutions guided by the full respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” The commission expressed their dedication to investigating war crimes and international law violations committed by both sides. They that the only viable solution to finding peace is “through addressing the root causes of the conflict.”