‘Israeli authorities are responsible for war crimes against humanity!’– UN International Commission of Inquiry

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The body of a child is pulled from the rubble of homes in Gaza destroyed by Israeli bombing

ISRAELI authorities are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the military operations and attacks on Gaza since 7th October 2023, the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, said in a new report yesterday.

The Independent Commission, established by the UN Human Rights Council, also concluded that, concerning Israel’s military operations in Gaza, Israel committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws.

The report found that statements made by Israeli officials – including those reflecting the policy of inflicting widespread destruction and killing large numbers of civilians – amounted to incitement and may constitute other serious international crimes.

Direct and public incitement to genocide is a crime under international law whenever perpetrated, even by persons with no direct authority for the conduct of the hostilities. Incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence is a serious violation of international human rights law and may amount to an international crime, said the report.

‘It is imperative that all those who have committed crimes be held accountable,’ said Navi Pillay, Chair of the Commission.

‘Israel must immediately stop its military operations and attacks in Gaza, including the assault on Rafah, which has cost the lives of hundreds of civilians and again displaced hundreds of thousands of people to unsafe locations without basic services and humanitarian assistance,’ Pillay said.

Concerning Israeli military operations and attacks in Gaza, the Commission found that Israeli authorities are responsible for the war crimes of starvation as a method of warfare, murder or wilful killing, intentionally directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, forcible transfer, sexual violence, torture and inhuman or cruel treatment, arbitrary detention and outrages upon personal dignity.

The immense numbers of civilian casualties in Gaza and the widespread destruction of civilian objects and infrastructure were the inevitable result of a strategy undertaken with the intent to cause maximum damage, disregarding the principles of distinction, proportionality and adequate precautions.

The intentional use of heavy weapons with large destructive capacity in densely populated areas constitutes an intentional and direct attack on the civilian population, said the report.

Although Israel issued hundreds of evacuation orders to people in north Gaza and other locations, the Commission found that they were at times insufficient, unclear and conflicting, and did not provide adequate time for safe evacuations.

Furthermore, the evacuation routes and the areas designated as safe were consistently attacked by Israeli forces. All of this, the Commission determined, amounted to forcible transfer.

The Commission determined that Israel imposed a ‘total siege’ which amounts to collective punishment against the civilian population.

Israeli authorities have weaponised the siege and used the provision of life-sustaining necessities, including by severing water, food, electricity, fuel and humanitarian assistance, for strategic and political gains.

The siege has disproportionately impacted pregnant women and persons with disabilities, with serious harm inflicted on children leading to preventable child deaths from starvation including newborns.

The report found that specific forms of sexual and gender-based violence constitute part of Israeli Security Forces’ operating procedures. It made the finding due to the frequency, prevalence and severity of the violations, which include public stripping and nudity intended to humiliate the community at large and accentuate the subordination of an occupied people.

In its recommendations, the report calls on the Government of Israel to immediately implement a ceasefire, end the siege of Gaza, ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid and cease the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure.

The Commission calls on Israel to comply fully with its legal obligations set forth in the International Court of Justice orders on provisional measures issued on 26 January 2024, 28 March 2024 and 24 May 2024 and, in particular, allow the Commission access to Gaza to conduct investigations.