In their investigation of the 2014 Gaza conflict, the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry found that Israel and Palestinian armed groups might both have committed war crimes.
“The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come,” the chair of the commission, Justice Mary McGowan Davis said in a press briefing on Monday. “There is also on-going fear in Israel among communities who come under regular threat”.
The investigators said they were especially concerned by Israel’s extensive use of weapons with a wide kill radius over densely populated areas. Israel carried out 6000 airstrikes and fired around 50.000 tank and artillery shells. Palestinian armed groups fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars towards Israel.
According to the report, which the commission will present to the UN Human Rights Council next week, 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed and 6 Israeli civilians were killed.
The commission found the conflict to have caused “immense distress and disruption to the lives of civilians in Israel.” Witnesses reported struggling to reach shelters with their children when the sirens signalling imminent attacks went off.
The indiscriminate firing of rockets and mortars at Israel also “appeared to have the intention of spreading terror among civilians”. The discovery of tunnels from Gaza to Israel also traumatized civilians who feared attacks from people bursting out of them.
In Gaza, the commission found that hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed in their homes and witnesses described extreme air strikes, “that reduced buildings to piles of dust and rubble in seconds.”
In an attack on a residential building during the summer, 742 people were killed and at least 142 families lost three or more members. The investigators also identified a pattern where the IDF issued a warning to people to leave a neighbourhood and then considered that anyone left was a fighter.
Makarim Wibisono, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights was barred entry to Palestinian territories by Israel ahead of the report’s release. Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that they did not allow his visit because they felt that their mission was biased.
“Israel cooperates with all the international commissions and all (UN) rapporteurs, except when the mandate handed to them is anti-Israeli and Israel has no chance to make itself heard”, Nashon told AFP.
The commission conducted its investigation by talking to witnesses over Skype, VTC and phone calls and conducted face-to-face interviews with victims and witnesses from the West Bank during visits to Jordan. They also spoke to victims and witnesses from Israel who travelled to Geneva.
The commission concluded that “Israel must break with its lamentable track record in holding wrong doers accountable and accountability on the Palestinian side is also woefully inadequate”.
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