UN Human Rights Chief: 'Strong Possibility' Israel Committed War Crimes in Gaza

UN Human Rights Chief: 'Strong Possibility' Israel Committed War Crimes in Gaza

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Wednesday that there “seems to be a strong possibility” that Israel is guilty of war crimes for Operation Protective Edge, a military operation targeting the terrorist group Hamas in which Israel has taken extraordinary measures to save civilian lives.

In a statement on the current situation in Gaza, Pillay urged an immediate ceasefire and claimed that Israel was possibly violating international humanitarian law, the technical name for the laws of war. “There seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” she said, calling for an investigation of numerous instances of alleged civilian deaths in Gaza. 

Pillay did not mention Hamas specifically or the Palestinian Authorities cooperation with the terrorist group, instead calling for a ceasefire on Israel’s part. “It is imperative that Israel, Hamas and all Palestinian armed groups strictly abide by applicable norms of international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” she insisted, “This entails applying the principles of distinction between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives; proportionality; and precautions in attack.”

The Israeli Defense Forces painstakingly work to warn civilians in areas targeted by the mission to flee, dropping pamphlets and yielding time for even Hamas targets to flee should it mean saving the life of a civilian. Videos released by the IDF show pilots avoiding Hamas targets when civilians appear to be in the line of fire, while their opponents willfully sacrifice civilians to force Israel to choose between a successful mission and a saved life.

Hamas is notorious for using civilians as human shields, forcing them into areas where they know Israel will want to attack, and hiding rockets in areas like mosques, elementary schools, and UN buildings. Hamas spokesmen have openly called for Palestinian civilians to sacrifice their lives to the cause, rather than urging them to leave war zones.

Despite the clear violation of international humanitarian law norms on the part of Hamas, the United Nations seems intent on blaming Israel for the escalation of violence. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said this week that it is Israel’s responsibility to address “underlying issues… including occupation” in order for the war to cease, while only off-handedly condemning Hamas’ rocket fire.

The UN’s Relief Works Agency, which works to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, did condemn the use by Hamas of one of their buildings to hide rockets. That statement occurred before the Israeli military found rockets in a second location run by UNRWA, however, and the subgroup of the UN has yet to comment on that issue.

Israeli authorities have dismissed Pillay’s statements, with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni describing the human rights commission itself as an “anti-Israel” body.