newsIsrael at War

UN commission accuses Israel and Hamas of war crimes

The report disregard “the abhorrent use of human shields by Hamas, the deliberate Hamas strategy of placing civilians in the line of fire,” writes Israel’s mission in Geneva.

Navi Pillay, chair of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, addresses a press conference. Credit: Jean-Marc Ferré/U.N. Photo.
Navi Pillay, chair of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, addresses a press conference. Credit: Jean-Marc Ferré/U.N. Photo.

A U.N. panel previously knocked by a number of countries for anti-Israel bias issued a report on Wednesday about the opening months of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, repeatedly claiming equivalencies between the actions of the Jewish state and the Western-designated terrorist group.

The U.N. Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict accused both sides of disregarding international law and committing war crimes. It takes Israeli security forces to task for a delayed response on the day of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre—a claim that would seem to fall outside even the commission’s expansive mandate.

Jerusalem has refused to cooperate with any of the commission’s investigations or activities, noting that its members are three jurists who have long criticized Israel and at times delved into open antisemitism: chair Navi Pillay, Miloon Kothari and Chris Sidoti.

The report describes Hamas’s massacre as “unprecedented in scale in [Israel’s] modern history” and “invoking painful trauma of past persecution not only for Israeli Jews but for Jewish people everywhere.”

The commission substantiated some claims of sexual violence on Oct. 7, writing that it had “documented evidence of sexual violence” committed by Palestinian armed groups in multiple locations in southern Israel that day.

Hamas terrorists, the report said, targeted women, whose bodies were “used as victory trophies by male perpetrators” and “put on public display, either on the streets of the Gaza Strip or online.”

But, the commission said, it could not independently verify rape testimonies in the hands of journalists and police due to Israel’s lack of cooperation.

The report, however, also accused Israeli forces of carrying out sexual violence in both Gaza and in territories in Judea and Samara, which the commission said intended to drive home “the subordination of an occupied people.”

But the commission cites as sexual violence incidents when terrorism suspects were allegedly interrogated or abused while naked or partially dressed, blindfolded or forced to kneel or keep their hands tied behind their backs, and accuses Israeli forces of particularly targeting men and boys, rather than women.

In reaction to photos and videos of large numbers of Gazan men gathered together in their underwear surrounded by Israeli forces, Israeli officials have said on many occasions that such treatment of detained males is necessary to ensure they have no explosives or other hidden weapons.

The commission’s report blames Israel in part for the civilian casualty toll on Oct. 7, saying that “Israeli authorities failed to protect civilians in southern Israel on almost every front.”

That includes, according to the commission, a delayed and inadequate response by security forces and the usage of the “Hannibal Directive,” which allegedly led to the deaths of 14 Israeli civilians. The murky, unpublished and often misunderstood directive was originally created to ensure that enemy forces could not take Israeli military members as hostages, even if it meant putting the soldiers in harm’s way. The directive was never intended to apply to Israeli civilians.

Meanwhile, despite overwhelming evidence, including from Hamas officials, that Gazan terrorist groups operate regularly in civilian areas and do so as a matter of policy, the commission only writes that it is “aware of reports” and Israeli “allegations” that Hamas and other groups operate in civilian areas.

Israel and other countries have said Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza use civilians as shields to protect terrorists and inflate the casualty toll during times of conflict to drive public opinion against Israel.

While the commission wrote that neither the Oct. 7 massacre nor Israel’s military response should be viewed in isolation, the Israeli mission to the United Nations in Geneva noted in a statement that the report “makes no mention of [the] decades-long” terrorist campaign by Hamas “or the continuous rocket fire across Israeli territory. The reports disregard the abhorrent use of human shields by Hamas, the deliberate Hamas strategy of placing civilians in the line of fire.”

“Regarding Israel however,” the statement adds, “the report has no problem placing blame for supposedly not defending its population on Oct. 7.”

Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said that the Commission of Inquiry “has once again proven that its actions are all in the service of a narrow-led political agenda against Israel.”

The statements from the Israeli mission and its envoy were based on an embargoed copy of the commission’s report, which was knowingly released on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, leading to a delayed reaction by other Israeli officials who, as a matter of policy, do not issue statements on Shabbat or Jewish holidays.

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