War crimes & crimes against humanity: UN rights reports damning for Israel

A UN investigation into Israel’s attacks on Gaza finds that the laws of war appear to have been “consistently violated” cause of the use of IDFs use of big bombs and not distinguishing between combatants and civilians.

It comes a week after another UN report said Israeli authorities are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Israel’s genocide in Gaza has killed nearly 40,000 Palestinians, with over 85,000 maimed and injured since October 7. 

The new report by the UN human rights office (OHCHR) in Geneva mentions six attacks from 9 October to 12 December 2023 involving the suspected use of bombs up to 2,000 pounds on homes, a school, refugee camps, and a market.

The UN team confirmed 218 deaths from these attacks but think the number of deaths could be a lot higher.

“The requirement to select means and methods of warfare that avoid or at the very least minimise to every extent civilian harm appears to have been consistently violated in Israel’s bombing campaign,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk.

The report concludes that these Israeli attacks, including the six they looked at closely, show the IDF may have repeatedly violated fundamental principles of the laws of war. 

“Israel’s choices of methods and means of conducting hostilities in Gaza since 7 October, including through the extensive use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated areas, have failed to ensure that they effectively distinguish between civilians and fighters,” said Türk.

“You wanted hell, you will get hell.”

The report referenced statements from high-level Israeli officials about their intent. 

It mentions how an IDF spokesperson who reportedly said “while balancing accuracy with the scope of damage, right now we’re focused on what causes maximum damage.”  Another army official was quoted calling Gaza people “human beasts” and “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.”

High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said: “I call on Israel to make public detailed findings on these incidents. It should also ensure thorough and independent investigations into these and all other similar incidents with a view to identifying those responsible for violations, holding them to account and to ensuring all victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparations.”

Israel’s UN team in Geneva said the report is “factually, legally, and methodologically flawed”.

War crimes and crimes against humanity

Last week’s report by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory concluded that Israeli authorities committed war crimes and crimes against humanity since 7 October 2023. It also said Hamas was responsible for war crimes.

The UN report is based on interviews, verified information online, thousands of documents, satellite images, and medical reports. Israel blocked the team from entering Israel and Palestinian areas.

The team said Israel committed war crimes in Gaza, including starving people, killing civilians, forcing people to move, and torture. They also found evidence of crimes against humanity, like wiping out groups of people, targeting Palestinian men and boys, murder, forcible transfer torture and inhuman treatment.

“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,” said Navi Pillay, Chair of the Commission.

Israeli army probe suggests IDF likely caused many October 7 deaths

Meanwhile, the reports come as leaked documents from an Israeli investigation suggest many Israeli deaths were caused by Israeli forces themselves on October 7.

The report, mentioned by Israeli news N12, says there were “multiple incidents of our forces firing on our forces.”

In June, a UN report said at least 14 Israelis were likely killed on purpose by its army.

The report by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) mentioned the “Hannibal Directive” being used several times. This rule lets the Israeli army use any force to stop their soldiers from being taken, even if it means killing them.

The UN team confirmed one case where an Israeli tank crew said they used this rule. They shot at a car they thought had captured Israeli soldiers inside.

The COI said it had confirmed one statement by an Israeli security forces tank crew who had “applied the Hannibal Directive by shooting at a vehicle which they suspected was transporting abducted [Israeli] soldiers”.

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