UN commission says Israel committed war crimes during Gaza border protests


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Gaza border protests last year, a United Nations investigation found.

Israeli soldiers shot and killed 189 Palestinians and injured more than 6,100 during the weekly protests in Gaza from March 2018 until the year’s end.

The U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry “has found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli security forces committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” its chair, Santiago Canton, told journalists in Geneva, Switzerland.

“These violations clearly warrant criminal investigation and prosecution, and we call on Israel to conduct meaningful investigations into these serious violations and to provide timely justice for those killed and injured,” he said.

The commission conducted 325 interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as analyzed audio-visual material showing demonstrators being shot, according to a U.N. statement.

“The Commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognizable as such,” it said in a statement.

“The demonstrations were civilian in nature, with clearly stated political aims. Despite some acts of significant violence, the Commission found that the demonstrations did not constitute combat or military campaigns.”

NGO Monitor, a pro-Israel watchdog, called the report “absurd.”

“The UN Human Rights Council, dominated by dictators and rights abusers, has issued yet another absurd report whitewashing Hamas terrorism while condemning Israel for protecting its citizens,” it said in a statement. “The statement noted that the commission lacked military or legal expertise, and was unqualified to author the report.

“Horrifically, the UN has given Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups a green light to exploit children to serve as cover for violent attacks on Israeli civilians. As usual, the UN Human Rights Council has done nothing to protect human rights, but rather has encouraged ever more violations.”

The commission’s full report will be presented to the Human Rights Council on March 18.

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