Hamas on Thursday called for Israel to be held accountable after a UN panel said IDF soldiers may have committed crimes against humanity in their response to violent protests on the Gaza border.
The UN Human Rights Council’s independent Commission of Inquiry alleged Thursday that soldiers intentionally fired on civilians who did not pose an “imminent threat” at the border. The panel acknowledged significant violence linked to the demonstrations, but said they did not amount to combat campaigns, essentially rejecting an Israeli claim of “terror activities” by the Strip’s Hamas rulers.
“The report indicates beyond any doubt that the Israeli occupation has committed clear war crimes against the Palestinians who came out to protest peacefully to demand the right of return and lift the siege,” Bassem Naim, a senior official for the terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, told AFP.
He called on “the international community to hold the Israeli occupation accountable for the war crimes that it continues to commit against the Palestinians.”
The Palestinian Authority also welcomed the probe’s findings.
The office of the PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said probe’s findings were “a right step in the right direction” but were “not enough for establishing comprehensive accountability.”
“The International community must take its responsibility and provide international protection for the Palestinian citizens in every inch of Occupied Palestine,” the office said. “We urge the international community and all United Nations related institutions to oblige Israel to commit to the fourth Geneva Convention and uphold its legal obligations as a belligerent occupant to protect the Palestinian citizens under its military control.”
Rights groups including Amnesty International also called for further action to hold Israel accountable after the report. Israeli rights group B’Tselem renewed a call for soldiers to refuse to comply with the army’s open-fire rules along the Gaza border.
Israel flatly rejected the report, calling it “hostile, deceitful and biased” while saying its actions have been necessary to defend the border.
“The council is setting new records in hypocrisy and lies, out of obsessive hatred of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “It is Hamas which fires rockets at Israeli civilians, bombs and carries out terrorist activities during the violent demonstrations on the fence.”
The Foreign Ministry said the report “was born in sin, in a politically biased, one-sided resolution that determined the outcome before the investigation even started.”
It added that the report “was written by three individuals that lack any understanding in security matters, without relevant professional background.”
Protests and clashes broke out along the Gaza border on March 30 last year in what Palestinians have dubbed the “Great March of Return,” which claims to seek to retake Israel and fulfill the Palestinian “right of return,” a demand Israeli officials say is akin to calling for Israel’s destruction.
Protesters regularly attack soldiers with grenades, bombs, rocks and Molotov cocktails and attempt to sabotage and breach the border and enter Israeli territory.
At least 251 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since March 2018, according to an AFP estimate, the majority shot during the weekly border protests and others hit by tank fire or air strikes in response to violence from Gaza.
Hamas has acknowledged many dozens of these were its fighters and operatives.
Two Israeli soldiers have been killed in attacks at or near the border fence by Hamas fighters.