May 28, 2021 - World

UN to investigate possible crimes committed during recent Gaza crisis

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is seen on a screen delivering her speech remotely

Michelle Bachelet is seen on a screen delivering her speech remotely on May 27, 2021. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations Human Rights Council agreed Thursday to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate possible "violations of international humanitarian law" during the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Why it matters: The investigation will cover a broad scope, encompassing "all alleged violations" committed in Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank during the latest crisis and the events leading to it.

What they're saying: In a speech to the council on Thursday, Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, called into question the actions of both Israel and Hamas during the conflict as basis for investigation.

  • The rockets launched by Hamas were "indiscriminate and fail to distinguish between military and civilian objects" making them a "clear violation of international humanitarian law," Bachelet said.
  • Israel's strikes on Gaza "raise serious concerns" about its adherence to "principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law," she added.
  • "Despite Israel’s claims that many of these buildings were hosting armed groups or being used for military purposes, we have not seen evidence in this regard."

Both actors have pushed back against the allegations.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the council's decision as "shameful" and accused the council of "whitewashing" Hamas, a "a genocidal terrorist organisation."
  • A spokesperson for Hamas defended the group's actions as "legitimate resistance" and called for "immediate steps to punish" Israel, per Reuters.

The big picture: More than 240 Palestinians, including at least 63 children, were killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza before a ceasefire came into effect last Friday, per the United Nations.

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