Jerusalem (AP) — A much-awaited United Nations report into the 2014 Gaza war released Monday found that both Israel and the Palestinians may have committed war crimes.
The commission said it gathered “substantial information pointing to serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” by both sides. In some cases, it added, these violations may amount to war crimes.
“The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come,” said Mary McGowan Davis, the chair of the commission. “There is also ongoing fear in Israel among communities who come under regular threat.”
Israel launched its offensive last July 8 in response to heavy rocket fire from Hamas and other militant groups. The rocket fire had escalated after Israel carried out a wave of arrests in the West Bank following the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers by militants linked to Hamas.
More than 2,200 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, were killed during the fighting, according to U.N. and Palestinian officials, while 73 people, including six civilians, died on the Israeli side.
Israel, which has long had a contentious relationship with the United Nations, preemptively slammed the report as biased.
A similar report conducted by the U.N.’s Human Rights Council following a 2008-2009 war in Gaza was harshly critical of both Israel and Hamas.
The commission, which presented its findings in Geneva, said the 2014 hostilities saw a huge increase in firepower, with more than 6,000 airstrikes by Israel and approximately 50,000 tank and artillery shells fired. Palestinian armed groups fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars toward Israel during the 50-day war.
Palestinians have said that the Israeli army violated the rules of war, which include giving adequate warning to civilians, using proportionate force and distinguishing between civilians and combatants. They have pointed to the high civilian casualty count as evidence.
Israel claims that Hamas is responsible for the civilian casualties because it used Gaza’s residents as “human shields” by firing rockets from residential areas and operating in schools, hospitals and mosques. It also notes that Hamas’ rockets and mortar shells were aimed at Israeli population centers.
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