A U.N. commission of inquiry into last summer’s war in Gaza found that both Israel and armed Palestinian factions committed "serious violations" of human rights laws and may both be guilty of committing war crimes. The report is likely to be used in an ongoing investigation into war crimes during the Gaza war by the International Criminal Court.
The seven-week war in Gaza that began last July left 2,251 Palestinians, 1,462 of whom were civilians, dead. Six Israeli civilians and 67 soldiers were also killed during the conflict, the investigation found.
"The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come," said Mary McGowan Davis, chair of the commission of inquiry. "There is also ongoing fear in Israel among communities who come under regular threat."
The report accused Hamas of using indiscriminate rocket and mortar fire. By the time a ceasefire was signed on Aug. 26, 2014, Palestinian factions had fired 4,564 rockets and mortars at Israel, according to Israeli news site YNet News. The report also claimed the armed Palestinian faction of executing Palestinians it accused of collaborating with Israel.
“The use of rockets in the possession of Palestinian armed groups, indiscriminate in nature, and any targeted mortar attack against civilians constitute violations of international humanitarian law in particular of the fundamental principle of distinction, which may amount to a war crime,” according to the U.N. Human Rights Council report released on Monday in Geneva.
Israel faces accusations of targeting civilian homes and using excessive artillery fire in residential areas.
Israel dismissed accusations of indiscriminate attacks on Gaza during the conflict, saying that it went above the requirements of international law and always warned civilians before an air raid. The report confirmed that the warnings did save civilian lives but questioned whether it was to the extent that Israel claimed.
However, the report also found that at certain points during the conflict roughly 44 percent of Gaza was under fire, which left civilians with no place to hide, whether or not they had heard the warning.
“It is well known that the entire process that led to the production of this report was politically motivated and morally flawed from the outset. Just as Israel seriously considered every complaint, no matter its origin,” a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a response to the report. “It is regrettable that the report fails to recognise the profound difference between Israel’s moral behaviour during Operation Protective Edge and the terror organisations it confronted.”
The war began as an Israeli air operation over the Gaza Strip as a response to repeated rocket fire from the Palestinians. After nearly 10 days of air raids, Israel launched a ground operation as well.
“Those responsible for suspected violations of international law at all levels of the political and military establishments must be brought to justice,”the report said.