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June 29, 2015

UN Issues Report on Gaza War; Israel Calls It Biased

A United Nations (UN) Commission of Inquiry on last summer’s Gaza war submitted its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Monday. The Commission stated in the report that Israel and Palestinian militant groups committed abuses of international humanitarian law that may amount to war crimes. It cited the “inherently indiscriminate nature” of rocket and mortar fire by Palestinian armed groups at Israeli civilians and condemned the killing of people suspected of collaborating with Israel. Regarding the actions of Israeli military in Gaza, the Commission said “impunity prevails across the board” and asked Israel to “break with its recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable.”

Defending Israel’s conduct during the Gaza war, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said, “The State of Israel and the IDF scrupulously abide by the highest standards of international law. The measures Israel took during the Gaza Conflict to protect the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians are without parallel among other military forces. From the outset, the purpose of this report was to vilify the State of Israel and the IDF, with the ultimate aim of undermining Israel’s right to defend its citizens from attack. [The Human Rights Council] has completely discredited itself through its obsessive and prejudicial preoccupation with Israel, while turning a blind eye to genuine violations of human rights around the world.”

While Hotovely’s statement reflected the comments and statements made by multiple Israeli Officials, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, former IDF attorney Col. (Res.) Pnina Sharvit-Baruch offered a different perspective. During an interview with Al-Monitor she said her “general impression [was] that the members of the commission tried to be balanced … [and] ... the report was written very cautiously, and that the materials that it contains cannot be used to prepare a criminal indictment.” Sarvit-Baruch also said she didn’t “think that there was an anti-Israel agenda. Nevertheless, the commission received its mandate from the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is clearly an anti-Israeli body. As a result, this is not a positive report, as far as Israel is concerned.”

Mary McGowan Davis, the head of the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry on the Gaza war, said the report was “even-handed” and rejected claims made by Netanyahu and others that the report was biased. She also told Israel’s Channel 2 that “the commission was correct in treating the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas as bound by ‘the same principles’ of the laws of war.”

United States State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the US “challenge[s] the very foundation upon which this report was written” and opposes any UN Security Council (UNSC) consideration of the UNHRC report on the Gaza War.

While Hamas issued a response to the UNHRC report on its website calling for the prosecution of Israeli leaders, the response made no mention of the report’s accusations against Hamas.

The Palestinian Authority followed the release of the UNHRC Gaza war report with the filing of documents on Thursday in the International Criminal Court. Included in the documents are data on damage caused by the Gaza war, settlement construction in the last year and Israel’s administrative detention of Palestinian prisoners.

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