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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.

Go deeper

Sep 1, 2021 - World

Israeli leader surprised Biden hardly raised China during visit

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Biden talk during Bennett's trip to the U.S. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had prepared for wide-ranging discussions on China with President Biden and other senior U.S. officials, but the issue hardly came up, an Israeli official who attended the Biden-Bennett meeting tells me.

Why it matters: Chinese involvement in Israel became a rare point of contention between the Trump and Netanyahu governments, with the Trump administration warning of damage to the U.S.-Israel security relationship, but former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dragging his feet on the issue.

Sep 1, 2021 - World

Rare meeting with Palestinian leader sparks rift in Israeli government

Benny Gantz. Photo: Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz's trip to Ramallah on Sunday to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — the first such visit by an Israeli Cabinet member in 12 years — ultimately proved how politically sensitive any steps to improve relations with the Palestinians can be in Israel.

Why it matters: Relations with the Palestinian Authority were frozen almost entirely under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gantz's visit was months in the making and was approved by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, but ended up causing tensions within the government.

1 hour ago - World

Iran agrees to resume Vienna nuclear talks in November

Ali Bagheri (R) with Enrique Mora in Tehran on Oct. 14. Photo: Iranian Foreign Ministry handout via Getty

Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator said following a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that Iran would resume negotiations in Vienna before the end of November, with the exact date to be set next week.

Why it matters: The Vienna talks have been frozen since Iran's new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected in June. This is the most direct commitment from Raisi's government to return to the negotiating table.

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