Israel's recent deadly air strikes on Gaza may constitute war crimes, the UN rights chief said on May 27, as countries discussed launching a broad, international investigation.
Addressing a special session of the UN Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet voiced deep concern about the “high level of civilian fatalities and injuries” from the attacks on Gaza. “If found to be indiscriminate and disproportionate in their impact on civilians and civilian objects, such attacks may constitute war crimes,” she warned.
She also said her office had “not seen evidence” that the buildings targeted in Gaza, including residential homes, medical facilities and media offices, were “hosting armed groups or being used for military purposes”, as claimed by Israel.
Bachelet also stressed that rockets fired by Hamas were “indiscriminate and fail to distinguish between military and civilian objects”, and were thereby “a clear violation of international humanitarian law”.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights made her statement at the start of a special one-day council session focused on the recent flare-up of violence.
Before a truce took hold on May 21, Israeli air strikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict, the health ministry in Gaza says.
A draft resolution presented by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation proposed setting up a broad, international investigation into violations surrounding the latest violence, calling for an unprecedented level of scrutiny into “systematic” abuses in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel and their “root causes” in the decades-long Middle East conflict.
The investigation should focus on establishing facts and gather evidence that could be used in legal proceedings, and should try to identify perpetrators to ensure they are held accountable, it said.