A United Nations report released on Thursday claimed Israeli soldiers were guilty of “war crimes” when firing at Hamas-led rioters rushing the security fence separating Israel from Gaza.
“The commission has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” said Argentinian legal expert Santiago Canton, who chaired the UNHRC’s commission of inquiry into the protests. “Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”
The 22-page report comes after 11 months of Hamas-led March of Return riots. The three-person independent Commission of Inquiry issued by the UN Human Rights Council said more than 6,000 people were shot by IDF snipers using live ammunition, 189 of them fatally.
“The Commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognizable as such,” the report claimed. The report noted significant violence by the rioters but claimed they did not pose an “imminent threat,” concluding that the protests were peaceful.
“The demonstrations were civilian in nature, with clearly stated political aims,” the statement said. “Despite some acts of significant violence, the Commission found that the demonstrations did not constitute combat or military campaigns.”
The report did blame Hamas for using aerial incendiary devices against southern Israel. The report was based on 325 interviews including 15 from the Israeli side. The Israeli government refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the report reflected the council’s “obsessive hatred” of Israel.
“The UN Human Rights Council is setting new records of hypocrisy and lies stemming from its obsessive hatred toward Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. Hamas is the one firing missiles at Israeli civilians, throwing explosive devices and carrying terrorist activity during demonstrations on the Gaza border,” Netanyahu said. Israel won’t allow Hamas to violate its sovereignty and hurt its citizens and will preserve its right to defend itself. IDF soldiers will continue defending with determination Israeli communities and civilians from Hamas and other terror organizations funded by Iran, which declares its intention to annihilate Israel,” the prime minister added.
U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt expressed his disapproval of the report on Twitter.
Hamas behaved with reckless irresponsibility & disregard for human life when it incited VIOLENT (not “civilian”) protests, breaches & attacks at the Gaza fence-line. Hamas is directly responsible for the miserable situation of the people of Gaza. https://t.co/66H8vdfkXH
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) March 1, 2019
Acting Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz echoed Netanyahu’s sentiments, saying that the council had “produced another hostile, mendacious and slanted report against the State of Israel … No one can deny Israel the right to self-defense and the obligation to defend its citizens and borders from violent attacks.”
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY) a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, issued a statement criticizing the UN report.
“This one-sided, highly biased and woefully inaccurate report fails to take into account key facts; most evidently, Hamas’s provocation and orchestration of this violence, its purposeful destabilization of order along the border and its continued incursions into Israel’s sovereign soil, including the launching of over 10,000 rockets and mortars on Israeli towns and villages, and the dozens of tunnels, enabling their death squads, since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza,” Zeldin wrote.
The report was released one day after an incendiary device launched from Gaza damaged a home in the Eshkol region of southern Israel. Approximately 8,000 Gazans rioted along the border fence on Friday, burning tires, launching incendiary devices, and throwing explosive devices and rocks at IDF troops.
More incendiary devices were launched on Saturday leading to an Israeli airstrike against Hamas military targets inside Gaza on Saturday night. It is also believed the Israeli airstrike may have been in response to nighttime attacks in which Molotov cocktails and explosive devices were thrown at IDF troops stationed on the Gaza border. The “Night Confusion” unit is a recent addition to the March of Return riots, announced on Arab media two weeks ago. The violence carried out by young men under cover of darkness is considered more violent and confrontational than the daytime riots.