GENEVA: A UN probe on Thursday said there is evidence Israel committed crimes against humanity in responding to last year’s protests in Gaza, as snipers targeted people clearly identifiable as children, health workers and journalists, reports AFP.
Israel immediately rejected the findings as “hostile, deceitful and biased.”The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory investigated violations committed during demonstrations in the Gaza strip between March 30 and December 31 of 2018.
“Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” committee chair Santiago Canton said in a statement.
“Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity,” he added. The commission, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in May, said that “more than 6,000 unarmed demonstrators were shot by military snipers” during weeks of protest.
“The Commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognisable as such,” it said.
Israel’s foreign minister said the Jewish State “rejects the report outright.”
“No institution can negate Israel’s right to self-defence and its duty to defend its residents and borders from violent attacks,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement.Among the most contentious questions surrounding the Gaza protests was whether the Palestinian protesters posed a grave threat to Israeli troops. The UN investigators stressed that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli troops killed and injured Palestinians “who were neither directly participating in hostilities, nor posing an imminent threat.”
The commission also dismissed claims by Israel that the protests were aimed to conceal acts of terrorism.
“The demonstrations were civilian in nature,” it said.
“Despite some acts of significant violence, the Commission found that the demonstrations did not constitute combat or military campaigns.”
The investigators told reporters in Geneva that they did not have access to the Israeli military’s rules of engagement concerning the suppression of protests.
The so-called “main inciters” provision is totally at odds with international law and must be removed from Israel’s rules of engagement, Canton told reporters.