23 to 8, UN rights council adopts report accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza
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23 to 8, UN rights council adopts report accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza

Foreign Ministry vows Jerusalem ‘will not cooperate with this mockery,’ says ‘moral majority’ of states did not vote in favor of measure

A picture taken on June 18, 2018, in Geneva, Switzerland, shows a general view during the opening of the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. (AFP/Alain Grosclaude)
A picture taken on June 18, 2018, in Geneva, Switzerland, shows a general view during the opening of the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. (AFP/Alain Grosclaude)

The United Nations Humans Rights Council voted Friday to adopt a report accusing Israel of crimes against humanity for its handling of violent protests on the border with Gaza Strip.

Twenty-three countries voted to in favor of the measure, with eight opposing it. Another 15 countries abstained, while one was absent.

The countries that voted against adopting the report were Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Fiji, Hungary, Togo and Ukraine.

The decision was condemned by the Foreign Ministry, which claimed that a “moral majority” did not vote in favor of the measure.

“Dictatorships and hypocrites vote in favor of the singling out, absurd pro Hamas pro terror report,” ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon wrote on Twitter.

“We will not cooperate with this mockery and will keep protecting Israel and Israelis,” he added.

Israel’s Ambassador to UN agencies in Geneva Aviva Raz Schechter (Elma Okic/UN Photo)

Aviva Raz Schecter, the Israeli ambassador to UN institutions in Geneva, said ahead of the vote that the report “was born in sin” and accused it of ignoring the role of the Gaza-ruling Hamas group in the clashes. An Islamist terror organization, Hamas seeks to destroy Israel

“The commission’s report will only serve to encourage Hamas’s use of the civilian population as shields and as a tool in its efforts to attack Israel, and increase the danger to civilians on both sides,” she told the Human Rights Council.

Raz Schechter also defended Israel’s track record of investigating suspicions against Israeli soldiers.

The vote came after the so-called Commission of Inquiry on the Protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on Monday presented a 250-page report alleging that Israel may have committed “crimes against humanity” by using live ammunition against Palestinians protesters who participated in the so-called Great March of Return.

Intentionally killing civilians who are not “directly participating in hostilities” is a war crime, the report stressed. “The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that individual members of the Israeli security forces, in the course of their response to the demonstrations, killed and gravely injured civilians who were neither directly participating in hostilities nor posing an imminent threat.”

Israel had at its disposal “less lethal alternatives,” the document went on, positing that the use of the live ammunition against protesters was disproportionate and unlawful.

A Palestinian holds a Palestinian flag as he uses a slingshot to hurl rocks at Israeli troops during clashes near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on October 26, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

According to the probe, Israeli security forces shot more than 6,000 Palestinians who participated in protests along the Gaza border between March and December 2018, killing 183 people, including 32 children.

Israel says the protests were organized by Hamas and were aimed at breaching the border fence with the specific aim of killing Israelis.

According to the commission of inquiry, fewer than 30 of those killed were “members of Palestinian organized armed groups,” adding that Israeli troops’ use of live fire was only justified in very few cases in which they faced an immediate threat to life.

Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.

The report accused Israel of having “consistently failed to meaningfully investigate and prosecute commanders and soldiers for crimes and violations committed against Palestinians.” While it acknowledged that the army has opened several internal army inquiries into the shootings of apparently uninvolved civilians, it doubted the government’s willingness to honestly scrutinize its policies and actions.

“Israel’s record for investigating deaths of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is dismal,” the report asserted.

Illustrative: Masked Palestinians calling themselves the ‘night confusion units’ hold incendiary devices attached to balloons to be flown toward Israel, near the border with Israel east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 26, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

At the same time, the commission of inquiry also said it believes that Hamas “encouraged or defended demonstrators’ use of incendiary kites and balloons, causing fear and significant material damage in southern Israel,” and that the group failed to stop the use of these “indiscriminate devices.”

There are “reasonable grounds” to believe that Israeli troops tasked with fending off Gazan protesters “killed and gravely injured civilians who were neither directly participating in hostilities nor posing an imminent threat,” the report alleged.

The panel said it was mandated to “identify those it deemed responsible for the violations” allegedly committed by Israel.

“It does so by placing the relevant information in a confidential file to be handed over to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,” the report stated.

Israel rejected the report outright, denouncing it two weeks ago, when the commission published a brief summary of it.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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