UN rights report says Israel potentially violated laws of war in Gaza campaign News
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UN rights report says Israel potentially violated laws of war in Gaza campaign

The UN Human Rights Office released a report on Wednesday saying that Israel may have committed multiple violations of international humanitarian law and potential war crimes amid its campaign in the Gaza Strip. The report scrutinizes six Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) attacks that may have violated international humanitarian law. According to the UN, these incidents resulted in high civilian casualties and destruction of civilian property.

The IDF allegedly used various types of bombs in densely populated areas, including residential buildings, a school, refugee camps and a market. The report stated that the extensive use of high-explosive weapons in such areas likely constitutes a prohibited indiscriminate attack under international law.

The report also claims that the IDF failed to issue warnings before five of the six attacks examined, which would violate the principle of precaution in attacks to protect civilians. Further, the report said Israel’s use of weapons with wide-area effects in densely populated areas violated the principle of distinction. This principle requires distinguishment to be made between combatants and civilians. The report’s findings also suggest that the principle of proportionality, which requires that military advantages outweigh civilian harm, appears to have been frequently ignored.

According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, 37,232 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed and over 85,000 have been injured as of  June 13, 2024. The report highlights that the majority of those killed have been civilians, with a significant number being women and children.

Israel responded to the report by saying that the report is biased, methodology unsound, and legally incorrect. It highlighted that the UN rights office does not have access to the military information that provides the reasoning for attacks. It also alleges that the report obtains its casualty numbers from Hamas and it ignores operational considerations and limitations. The response noted:

The IDF reviews targets before strikes chooses the proper munition in accordance with operational and humanitarian considerations, taking into account an assessment of the relevant structural and geographical features of the target, the target’s environment, possible effects on nearby civilians, critical infrastructure in the vicinity, and more.

The IDF has maintained that its operations aim to neutralize threats in real-time, that Hamas deliberately puts civilians in harm’s way as a strategy, and that its fight is “not against the people of Gaza.” However, an IDF official’s statement, which the UN’s report said was directed at Hamas and Gazan civilians, said, “[H]uman beasts are dealt with accordingly. Israel has imposed a total blockade on Gaza. No electricity and no water, just damage. You wanted hell, you will get hell.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk stated:

While the IDF asserts it has initiated factual assessments of most of the incidents examined in the report, it is now eight months since the first of these extremely serious incidents occurred. Yet still there is no clarity as to what happened or steps toward accountability.

The report calls for Israel to conduct independent and transparent investigations into these alleged violations. Cooperation with the International Criminal Court has also been recommended to ensure justice for the victims.