image Photo: Flash90

UNHRC criticizes Israel, Gaza for conflict

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has declared that the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza violated international humanitarian law by firing rockets into Israel earlier this month, while the IDF retaliatory strikes during the recent Operation Guardian of the Walls could constitute war crimes.

The conflict erupted after Hamas launched thousands of rockets at the Jewish State, after demanding that Israeli security forces withdraw from Arab clashes at the Al Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem.

Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said that the “indiscriminate” Hamas missile strikes constituted “a clear violation of international humanitarian law” and that “each one of these rockets constitutes a war crime.”

Turning to Israel, Bachelet said IDF air, sea and ground attacks on Gaza caused widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure and fatalities.

“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,” Bachelet stated, adding, “If found to be indiscriminate and disproportionate, such attacks might constitute war crimes.”

Bachelet said her office has confirmed the deaths of 270 Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the 11-days of violence.

12 civilians and 1 soldier were killed by terrorist rocket fire at Israeli towns and cities.

The 10-22 May conflict ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.

Bachelet delivered the allegations during a special session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that convened at the request of the Palestinians and Pakistan, acting as coordinator of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – who have requested a commission of inquiry by the world body to investigate possible crimes against Israel dating back to 13 April.

Since being set up in 2006, the 47-member UNHRC has held eight previous special sessions that have condemned Israel and set up numerous probes into alleged war crimes.

Ahead of the session, Israel’s Ambassador to the UNHRC Meirav Eilon Shahar tweeted that “targeting Israel is testament to the clear anti-Israeli agenda of this body.” She further accused the resolution’s sponsors of “only rewarding the actions of Hamas,” which she stressed is “a “jihadist, genocidal, terrorist organization” that used Palestinian civilians as human shields to conceal its rocket arsenals.

The UNHRC then adopted a resolution that labeled Israel as the culprit of hostilities, but evidently failed to condemn the indiscriminate rocket fire by the Islamist organizations in the Palestinian enclave at Israeli civilian communities.

The Philippines, China, Russia, Cuba, Libya, Venezuela, Pakistan, Indonesia and 16 other nations voted in favor of the anti-Israeli resolution; while those who abstained included India, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Brazil, the Republic of Korea, Fiji, Poland and the Bahamas.

The United Kingdom, Uruguay, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Germany, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Czech Republic and Austria voted against the one-sided bill, with many voicing outrage over its content.

“We unequivocally condemn the firing of rockets by Hamas and other terrorist group from Gaza into Israel and regret that the resolution presented today does not include any statement to this effect,” said Vienna’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz released a blistering statement, saying that “The UN Human Rights Council’s decision draws its basic legitimacy into question.”

“There has never been an army that has overseen such a complex military operation with so little damage to the uninvolved, while facing an enemy that turned homes, medical clinics and the streets of Gaza into fighting grounds,” insisted the Israeli Defense Chief.

“There is no doubt: the leaders of Hamas are shameful war criminals with blood on their hands, and every peace-loving country should seek to stop them,” while “The IDF is the most ethical army in the world and it will continue to fulfill its duty of protecting Israel’s citizens, with the full backing of Israeli leadership,” said Lt. Gen. (res) Gantz, a former IDF Chief of Staff.

Israel emphasized that it will not cooperate with such a biased investigation.

“The resolution does not mention Hamas, does not mention the more than 4,400 rockets that were launched at Israeli civilians indiscriminately,” charged Israeli Ambassador Eilon Shahar, adding that, “Judging from past experience, the commission of inquiry will not look into Hamas war crimes – therefore Israel will not cooperate with such an investigation. We are committed to the security of our citizens and will continue to protect our population while upholding our obligations under international law.”

In contrast to Israel’s voiced outrage over the resolution, the Islamist rulers of Gaza predictably announced that, “The Hamas movement welcomes the decision of the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the crimes of the war that was committed by the occupation forces against the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.”

“What happened in the Gaza Strip is a fully-fledged war crime that the world watched it happen on their television. Now we need a further step to be taken which is to actually punish the occupation and take preventive steps so these crimes would not be repeated against our Palestinian people,” insisted Hamas Spokesperson Hazem Qassem, underscoring that, “The resistance in return has defended its people according to the international law and decisions and the resistance is legitimate by all laws and humanitarian decisions.”

The administration of former US President Donald Trump resigned from the organization in 2018 after repeated warnings against its anti-Israel bias.

Then-US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley observed that, “You know something is seriously wrong when the Council passes more than 70 resolutions against Israel – which has a strong human rights record – and just 7 resolutions against Iran, whose history is abysmal.” Haley further cautioned that if the UNHRC failed to alter its platform, it would risk becoming “a showcase for dictatorships” as well as a “cover for some of the worst atrocities being carried out” worldwide.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry previously charged that the council has adopted more resolutions against the Jewish State “than against all the rest of the countries in the world combined,” while blatantly and systematically ignoring real human rights violations elsewhere.  In 2018, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement accusing the “anti-Israel majority” at the UNHRC of exhibiting “hypocrisy, and absurdity.”

The US rejoined the forum under President Joe Biden, although it currently has observer status and no vote. Washington, Jerusalem’s closest ally, appeared to shun the latest session, by failing to sign up to address the talks.

According to the draft submitted by the Muslim countries, the UNHRC probe would examine all underlying root causes of tensions and instability, “including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity.”

An independent team would be tasked with collection and analysis of evidence of criminal activity including forensic material, “in order to maximize the possibility of its admissibility in legal proceedings,” and instructed to report its findings by June 2022.