What we know about the UN report on Israeli and Palestinian war crimes

A United Nations commission released a report Wednesday detailing acts of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, accusing both sides of war crimes and arguing that the immense loss of life in the Gaza Strip constitutes a crime against humanity.

The report consisted of two parallel investigations, one focused on the October 7 attack on Israel led by the Palestinian armed group Hamas, and the other on Israel's military response. It is one of the most detailed examinations of the conflict to date and provides legal analysis that is likely to be used in future criminal proceedings related to the war in Gaza.

Here's a closer look at the commission's findings.

According to the report, 800 civilians were among more than 1,200 killed by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups involved in the October 7 attack on Israel. More than 250 other people, including 36 children, were taken hostage, the commission said.

The commission accused Israeli forces of responding to Hamas-led attacks in a way that amounted to collective punishment against Palestinians, with a lethal toll on civilians that constitutes a crime against humanity. Gaza's Health Ministry has said more than 37,000 people have now died, although it makes no distinction between civilians and fighters.

The commission said both sides were responsible for killing civilians despite identifying themselves as non-combatants.

The report also highlighted the conflict's heavy toll on children, not only in terms of deaths on both sides, but also in the large number of children left orphaned.

He accused Israel of failing to ensure the ability to gather forensic evidence, particularly regarding allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas, “undermining the possibility of future prosecutions, accountability and justice.”

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry was led by Navi Pillay, former UN human rights chief; Chris Sidoti, an Australian human rights law expert; and Miloon Kothari, an Indian expert on human rights and social policy.

The three-person team conducted interviews with victims and witnesses and also examined satellite images, forensic medical records and open source data such as photographs and videos.

The commission noted that Israel did not participate in the investigation and accused the commission of bias. The commission also said Israel obstructed its efforts to communicate with key witnesses in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Because it could not enter Gaza, the commission conducted many of its interviews remotely. He also met victims and witnesses who had fled to Egypt and Türkiye to escape the conflict.

The commission said the widespread use of heavy weapons, air and artillery strikes in densely populated areas of the Gaza Strip made large civilian casualties inevitable and constituted “an intentional and direct attack on the civilian population, particularly targeting women and children”.

Israel acted “with the intent to cause maximum harm” and did not take precautions or consider the proportionality of its actions, the report said.

After analyzing 80 Israeli evacuation orders between October and December 2023, the commission said Israel did not provide the protection that Gaza civilians had a right to expect by following its instructions. Ivacuees “were targeted along evacuation routes and in designated safe zones,” the commission said. He added that some of the evacuation orders indicated “an intention to forcibly relocate the population,” which could constitute a crime against humanity.

Referring to the siege of Gaza, the commission said Israel had “used starvation as a method of warfare.” He adds: “Israel has weaponized the refusal of basic necessities, cutting supplies of water, food, electricity, fuel and other essential goods, including humanitarian assistance. This constitutes collective punishment and retaliation against the civilian population.”

In the case of Hamas and other Palestinian militants involved in the October 7 attack – including civilians who had banded together to cross into Israel – the commission accused the groups of intentionally kidnapping and killing civilians. It also states that “many abductions were carried out with significant physical, mental and sexual violence.” The commission documented extensive allegations of sexual violence by the October 7 attackers, which constitute a violation of international humanitarian law and may be considered a war crime.

The report also states that Israeli soldiers who were sick, wounded, captured or otherwise unfit for combat were killed, which could also constitute a war crime.

The report said Hamas militants and other Palestinian armed groups have resorted to sexual violence, particularly against women. He examined images of partially or completely stripped bodies showing signs of such abuse. It also said it had obtained credible witness accounts describing exposed genitals and women with their hands tied.

The commission said it was unable to independently verify allegations of rape, sexualized torture or genital mutilation reported in the media. He noted that Israel blocked his access to witnesses, crime scenes and unredacted versions of recorded testimonies.

The cases of sexual violence “were not isolated incidents but perpetrated in similar ways in different locations,” the report said. However, the commission said it found no credible evidence that militants were ordered to commit sexual violence on October 7.

The commission accused Israel of sexual and gender-based violence during its offensive in Gaza, including torture, abuse and sexual humiliation.

Detained Palestinians were forced to “walk completely or partially naked” in front of the public and to walk completely or partially naked “while subjected to sexual harassment,” it said.

Most of these acts were perpetrated against men and boys, the commission said, while Palestinian women also suffered psychological violence and sexual harassment.

The commission said Hamas rejected all allegations that its forces used sexual violence against Israeli women during the October 7 attack.

Israel's mission to the United Nations in Geneva said the report “reflects the systematic anti-Israeli discrimination of this commission of inquiry.”

Israel said the commission ignored Hamas's use of civilians as “human shields,” a charge the report briefly addresses by noting that there was insufficient evidence to show that the militants had established themselves among the civilian population on a large scale.

The Israeli mission also said the commission had “outrageously and repugnantly” drawn a false equivalence between Hamas and the Israeli army in relation to sexual violence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *