UN to probe whether Israel, Hamas committed crimes

United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has launched an international investigation into whether crimes were committed by Hamas and Israel in their 11-day conflict in May.

The probe will include alleged violations of international law in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel during the hostilities that were halted by a ceasefire on May 21.

Brought forward on May 27 by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Palestinian delegation to the UN, the vote on the resolution was 24 states in favour, nine against, and 14 abstentions.

It calls on the council “to urgently establish an ongoing independent, international commission of inquiry… to investigate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel, all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law leading up to and since 13 April 2021, and all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity.”

The measure also authorizes the committee to probe potential human rights violations in Israel itself, including events in Sheikh Jarrah and the Temple Mount before the rocket attacks, and the violence in mixed cities during the conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the measure, and said Israel would not cooperate with the investigation.

The “shameful decision is yet another example of the UN Human Rights Council’s blatant anti-Israel obsession,” Netanyahu said in a statement, saying it “whitewashes a genocidal terrorist organization that deliberately targets Israeli civilians while turning Gaza’s civilians into human shields.”

He said the investigation “makes a mockery of international law and encourages terrorists worldwide.”

Israel’s foreign ministry said the country’s forces acted “in accordance with international law, in defending our citizens from Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket fire.”

Canada is not a member of the council, but its UN ambassador in Geneva issued the following statement:

“Canada welcomes the ceasefire in Israel and Gaza and urges further de-escalation of tensions. A sustainable long-term solution must be found for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. Canada will continue to work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international community to break the cycle of violence, loss of life and suffering.

“Canada firmly believes in the right of Palestinians and Israelis to live with dignity, without fear, and with their human rights respected. We support the principle of “two states for two peoples”, with both Israelis and Palestinians living within secure borders that are mutually respected and recognized.

“The continued expansion of (Israeli) settlements, demolitions and evictions constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace. Canada calls on Israel to stop settlement activities, including those in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. These activities are a violation of international law and must cease. Canada reiterates that it does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967.

“The indiscriminate barrage of rockets fired by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad into Israel was completely unacceptable. Canada supports Israel’s right to live in peace with its neighbours within secure boundaries, and its right to assure its own security. This right must be exercised in a way that is proportionate, and fully respects human rights and international law.

“Canada remains firmly committed to working with the international community to achieve lasting peace in the region.”