Israeli Authorities Responsible for War Crimes in Gaza, UN Inquiry Finds

Israeli Authorities Responsible for War Crimes in Gaza, UN Inquiry Finds

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A United Nations inquiry has concluded that Israeli authorities are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza.

The findings were released by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory during a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.

Navi Pillay, chairwoman of the UN-backed commission, stated that Israel "forcibly transferred almost the entire population into a small enclosure that is unsafe and uninhabitable."

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

She further noted that the commission found specific forms of sexual and gender-based violence were part of the Israeli security forces' operating procedures.

"Although Israeli officials have repeatedly stated their operations in Gaza are intended to destroy Hamas and release hostages, yet neither of these aims has been largely achieved at the expense of thousands of lives," she said.

Pillay detailed that Israeli forces committed sexual and gender-based violence with the intent to humiliate and further subordinate the Palestinian community.

"Palestinian women were targeted and subjected to sexual violence and harassment online and in person," she said. "Men and boys experienced specific persecutory acts, including sexual and gender-based violence amounting to torture and inhuman and cruel treatment."

The daily onslaught in Gaza has largely overshadowed a parallel wave of violence in the occupied West Bank, Pillay noted.

Since the Gaza war began in October, she observed, more Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers there than in any other recorded period.

The violence is attributed to both Israel's increasingly militarized operations and a "surge in settler violence" often ignored by Israeli forces, she said.

The UN reiterates its call for a ceasefire and for the "complete cessation of hostilities," Pillay added.

"We call for the immediate and full end of the siege, the release of all detainees, including all of the Israeli hostages, and for Palestinian armed groups to stop the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel," she said.

She emphasized that all parties must protect civilians and civilian objects, and "attacks against UN agencies and humanitarian actors must stop."

The UN calls on Israel to ensure the commission's "immediate access to the Gaza Strip in order to investigate and preserve evidence in compliance with the order issued by the ICJ (International Court of Justice)."

"Israel has ignored the request we have submitted to them," Pillay said.

Toby Cadman, a UK-based international human rights lawyer, described the UN commission of inquiry's report as "strong, compelling and very much expected."

He noted that while the report is unlikely to have an immediate effect on Israel's conduct, it could be used as evidence in future legal proceedings and might influence donor countries' policies.

"We have seen a shift in policies in Western capitals," Cadman told Al Jazeera. "This will be further evidence as to the intent and conduct of Israeli authorities. It will have to – and should – cause all capitals to consider the extent to which support is provided to Israel in the ongoing conflict."

Discussing Israel's war on Gaza, Pillay said, "We have never seen anything like this, to this extent."

"Even the attack on the UN is unprecedented. The number of victims, unprecedented. It’s never happened before," she told Al Jazeera in Geneva.

The commission will release further reports on other issues, such as attacks on healthcare facilities in Gaza and the war’s effect on the education of children, before the UN General Assembly in New York, Pillay said.

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