UNHRC poised to probe Israel for 'war crimes' over Gaza deaths

The UN body is set to discuss the deadly protests in Gaza and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem Friday.

Palestinian demonstrators carry tires during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City May 14, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
Palestinian demonstrators carry tires during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City May 14, 2018.
The United Nations Human Rights Council is poised to launch a “war crimes” probe into Israeli actions to quell violent riots along the Gaza border over the last seven weeks, which led to the death of 102 Palestinians.
The UNHRC is expected to vote to dispatch “an independent commission of inquiry” during a special session in Geneva on Friday.
Its conclusions are likely to target individual soldiers and commanders stationed on the Gaza border.
The commission of inquiry is mandated to look into “alleged violations and abuses including those that may amount to war crimes and to identify those responsible,” according to the text of the resolution submitted on Thursday night.
UN warns of more Gaza violence, condemns Israel"s use of force, May 15, 2018 (Reuters)
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The commission should look at “ending impunity and ensuring legal accountability, including individual criminal and command responsibility, for such violations,” states the resolution, which details the investigation’s mandate.
The resolution asks the commission of inquiry to “provide recommendations to protect civilians against any further assaults.”
The commission will also have a very wide mandate to probe Israeli actions in the West Bank and east Jerusalem during that period.
The inclusion of east Jerusalem into the probe’s mandate implies that the US opening of its embassy in Jerusalem this week could also be included in the investigation.
But the text said the focus would be “particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the [IDF] military assaults on large-scale civilian protests that began on 30 March 2018.”
The resolution charges that Israel used disproportionate force along the Gaza border and called on it to end “its illegal closure of the occupied Gaza Strip.”
The resolution refers to the Palestinian demonstrators and “peaceful” and makes no mention of the violent Palestinian acts that took place during those events.
These include burning tires, Molotov cocktails and the launch of flaming kites over the border into Israel. Nor it did it focus on the numerous attempts by the Palestinians to infiltrate Israel by cutting through the border fence.
Israel has charged that many of the dead were Hamas members, and even Hamas has acknowledged that this is correct.
The bloodiest days of the protest, dubbed the Great March of Return that began on March 30, occurred on Monday of this week when 60 Palestinians were killed. Since then the international community, including Canada, has called for an international probe into the killings.
Earlier this week the US quashed an attempt to by the UN Security Council to order such a probe.
UN Secretary General António Guterres on Thursday reiterated his call for such an investigation in a statement that was read in his name at the UN Forum on the Question of Palestine in New York.
“It is imperative that everyone show the utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life, including all civilians and particularly children are not in harm’s way. The cycle of violence in Gaza must end, it serves no one,” Guterres said in his statement. He added, “I repeat my call for such killings to be investigated thoroughly.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called on Israel and the US to immediately withdraw from the UNHRC to protest its special session on Israel.
“Israel is under a double attack,” Liberman wrote in a Twitter post.
“A terror attack from Gaza and an attack of hypocrisy headed by the United Nations Human Rights Council.”
The Human Rights Council’s condemnations of Israel, Liberman wrote, “are meant to deter Israel from protecting itself. They will not succeed.”
“We must stop permitting this celebration of hypocrisy,” the defense minister wrote, “and immediately withdraw from the Human Rights Council, and work diligently so that the United States joins us in this step.”
Friday’s session has been “convened per an official request submitted this evening by Palestine and the United Arab Emirates, on behalf of the Arab Group of States, which has been supported by 26 States thus far,” the UNHRC said.
It will be the 28 special session the UNHRC has held since its inception in 2006 and the eighth that has focused on Israeli actions against the Palestinians. The last one on Israel was in July 2014 in the middle of the Gaza war.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.