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UN report: 'War crimes' likely by both sides in 2014 Gaza war

June 22, 2015 2:34 P.M. (Updated: June 30, 2015 11:59 A.M.)
A Palestinian man holds his daughters, Shada and Lama al-Ejla, who were injured in an Israeli tank attack, as he leaves al-Shifa hospital on July 18, 2014 in Gaza City. (AFP/File Mahmud Hams)
GENEVA (AFP) -- Both Israel and Palestinian militants may have committed war crimes during last year's Gaza war, a widely anticipated United Nations report said Monday, decrying the "unprecedented" devastation and human suffering.

The Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict announced it had gathered "substantial information" and "credible allegations" that both sides had committed war crimes during the conflict, which killed more than 2,140 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 people on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

"The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come," the chair of the commission, New York judge Mary McGowan Davis, said in a statement.

The report decried the "huge firepower" used in Gaza, with Israel launching more than 6,000 airstrikes and firing 50,000 artillery shells during the 51-day operation.

A third of the civilians killed were children.

Palestinian armed groups meanwhile fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars towards Israel, killing six civilians and injuring at least 1,600 others.

The report pointed out that hundreds of Palestinian civilians had been killed in their own homes, especially women and children, providing heart-wrenching testimony from a member of the Al Najjar family who lost 19 of his relatives in an attack in Khan Younis on July 26.

"We all died that day, even those who survived," he said.

According to the report, at least 142 families lost three or more members in an attack on residential buildings during last summer's war, resulting in 742 deaths.

"The fact that Israel did not revise its practice of air-strikes, even after their dire effects on civilians became apparent, raises questions of whether this was part of a broader policy which was at least tacitly approved at the highest level of government," the commission said in a statement.

The commission also voiced concern that a sense of "impunity prevails across the board for violations ... allegedly committed by Israeli forces, whether it be in the context of active hostilities in Gaza or killings, torture and ill-treatment in the West Bank."

The investigators urged Israel to "break with its recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable."

The report also decried the "indiscriminate" firing of thousands of rockets and mortars at Israel, which it said appeared to be have been intended to "spread terror" among Israeli civilians.

The commission was not granted entry to Israel or the conflict area, and relied instead on more than 280 confidential interviews and some 500 written submissions for its findings.

Canadian international law expert William Schabas resigned as chair of the commission after Israel charged he was biased because he had prepared a legal opinion for the Palestine Liberation Organization in October 2012.

Israel was not satisfied, calling for the entire inquiry to be shelved, insisting the commission and the Human Rights Council which created it are inherently biased against Israel.

PLO Executive Committee member Saeb Erekat on Monday said that Palestine would review the findings and recommendations of the UN report "with the highest consideration, in line with its staunch commitment to ensuring respect for these esteemed bodies of international law."

He added: "As we begin to do so, we urge the international community to recall that the only true path to peace lies in ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, and in ending crime and the impunity with which it continues to be perpetrated against our people."

Hamas, meanwhile, welcomed the report, claiming it was a "clear condemnation of the occupation" that "requires that its leaders be brought to the International Criminal Court, and other international courts to try them for their crimes against our people."

Gaza's de facto leaders ignored criticism of their own actions during the war.

Israel's foreign ministry dismissed the report as "politically motivated and morally flawed from the outset," and insisted the country's military acted appropriately.

"In defending itself against attacks, Israel's military acted according to the highest international standards," the foreign ministry said.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.

Heavy smoke billows following an Israeli military strike in Gaza City on July 29, 2014. (AFP/File Ashraf Amra)
Comments
Tobias / USA
There is No evidence, that Israel intentionally fired on any civilians, and No Doubt that if Israel had not fired on Gaza's Islamic militants, who fought from civilian areas (including schools and hospitals) that more Israeli civilians would have been killed, so
the ICC should reject Pali Lawfare !!
23/06/2015 21:14
Joseph / Canada
lol Tobias, it's both funny and sad to see Israli apologists ignore facts and continue to promote their fantastical version of events. You should know, Tobias, that the Palistinian people have EVERY RIGHT to use whatever tactics they deem useful in their fight against occupation.
30/06/2015 15:11
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