Israeli attacks on Gaza may constitute ‘war crimes’: UN

  • 8 months   ago
Israeli attacks on Gaza may constitute ‘war crimes’: UN

The Independent

The United Nations human rights chief has said that Israel’s deadly strikes on Gaza last week may constitute war crimes if they are shown to be disproportionate.

Opening a special session of the UN Human Rights Council, called at the request of Muslim states, Michelle Bachelet questioned Israeli claims that they were solely hitting military targets, saying that she had seen no evidence that civilian buildings in Gaza hit by Israeli strikes were being used by for military purposes.

“If found disproportionate, such attacks might constitute war crimes,” she told the 47-member Geneva forum.

She also urged Hamas militants in Gaza to refrain from firing indiscriminate rockets on Israel.

Ms Bachelet said it was the “most significant escalation of hostilities since 2014” that left devastation and death in the Gaza Strip before a ceasefire last week.

The 11-day war killed at least 248 in Gaza, including 66 children. In Israel, 12 people also died, including two children.

“Airstrikes in such densely populated areas resulted in a high level of civilian fatalities and injuries, as well as the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure,” Bachelet said.

“Such attacks may constitute war crimes,” she added, if deemed to be indiscriminate and disproportionate in their impact on civilians.

Ms Bachelet also stated that unless the “root causes” of the violence are addressed, “it will certainly be a matter of time until the next round of violence commences with further pain and suffering for civilians on all sides.”

Israel has repeatedly denied it targets civilians or that its strikes are disproportionate, saying that the army uses precision weapons and even warning systems to minimise civilian damage.

 

“The IDF aspires to avoid civilian casualties as [much] as possible,” it said in a statement about a number of bombings on Wehda Street, a heavily populated neighbourhood of Gaza City.

The Israeli army said Hamas bears responsibility for “intentionally locating its military infrastructure under civilian houses, thus exposing civilians to danger”.

Also on Thursday, the UN launched an emergency appeal for $95 million (£67 million) for Gaza for the next three months to meet immediate humanitarian needs and repairs to key facilities.

That includes hospitals, schools, water and sewage facilities and other infrastructure destroyed or damaged.

Lynn Hastings, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Gaza, urged donors to contribute generously at a virtual news conference launching the appeal, which she said will target one million people for assistance.“I’m calling for humanitarian assistance right now to meet the immediate needs,” she said.

Hastings said the conflict left 800,000 people without regular access to piped water. Untreated sewage water was being discharged into the sea and 58 education facilities were damaged, including 285 buildings with over 1,000 housing and commercial units destroyed. Six hospitals and 11 health care centers were also damaged, and electricity was down to four to six hours a day.

Meanwhile, the Irish parliament has declared the building of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as a de facto annexation, making Ireland the first EU member state to do so.

Israel’s foreign ministry said it “outright rejects” the action, calling it an “outrageous and baseless” motion that “constitutes a victory for extremist Palestinian factions”.

 

Agencies contributed to this report

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