UN Gaza War Crimes Report: Israel Disputes, Hamas Embraces

The United Nations claims that both sides — Hamas and Israel — of the 2014 Gaza conflict committed war crimes. Israel was quick to reject the findings as “biased,” and Hamas seemed to ignore the parts it didn’t like and welcomed the rest.

According to a UN press release, 1,462 Palestinians died in the brief Gaza war — about one-third of them were children. According to Amnesty International, many of the Palestinian deaths were the result of Hamas and like-minded groups. Likewise, six Israeli civilians passed away because of the conflict.

The UN claims that some of Israel’s over 6,000 airstrikes targeted residential homes with precision. Israel’s other alleged Gaza war crimes included excessive use of artillery in civilian areas and loosening the troop rules of engagement — such as a use of the Hannibal Directive in Rafah, according to the Guardian.

The report’s commissioners called on Israel to hold its people responsible for the war crimes.

“Israel must break with its lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable and accountability on the Palestinian side is also woefully inadequate.”

Hamas’ war crimes largely stemmed from its 6,634 rocket and mortar attacks.

“The use of rockets in the possession of Palestinian armed groups, indiscriminate in nature, and any targeted mortar attack against civilians constitute violations of international humanitarian law, in particular of the fundamental principle of distinction, which may amount to a war crime.”

Despite Israel’s refusal to allow the commission into Gaza and other affected areas, the authors managed to conduct over 280 confidential interviews and received 500 written submissions. Some of them were dramatic.

A member of the al-Najjar family lost 19 of his relatives in a July 26 attack.

“I woke up … in the hospital, and I later learned that my sister, mother and my children had all died… We all died that day even those who survived.”

Israel’s foreign ministry was quick to call the war crimes report biased.

“It is well known that the entire process that led to the production of this report was politically motivated and morally flawed from the outset. It is regrettable that the report fails to recognize the profound difference between Israel’s moral behavior during Operation Protective Edge and the terror organizations it confronted.”

Israel pointed to its warning systems for areas being targeted for airstrikes as an example of its high standards.

Although the commissioners admit that the warnings saved lives, in many cases they were ineffective because the attacks were often so widespread civilians had nowhere to go.

For its part, Hamas was generally happy with the UN’s report. According to Reuters, the group wrote on its website that it welcomed the findings.

“Hamas welcomes the condemnation of the Zionist occupation stated in the U.N. report because of its [Israel’s] aggression against Gaza and Israel’s commission of war crimes. This requires bringing leaders of the occupation before the International Criminal Court. The world must put an end to the occupation’s crimes against our people and against Gaza.”

As for the accusations about the group’s own war crimes, senior official Ghazi Hamad gave a brief denial, saying the group’s rocket attacks were never indiscriminate, but always aimed at military targets.

In the end, the authors of the report expressed their respect for those who suffered in the fighting.

“We were deeply moved by the immense suffering and resilience of the victims, we just hope our report contributes in some small way to ending the cycle of violence.”

The commission plans to formally present its findings on the Gaza war crimes to the UN Human Rights Council on June 29, 2015, in Geneva.

[Image Credit: Getty Images]