UN probe finds Israel may have committed ‘crimes against humanity’ against Gaza protests

Palestinian paramedics and journalists carry a wounded fellow journalist during clashes with Israeli forces in Gaza. (AFP)
Updated 28 February 2019
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UN probe finds Israel may have committed ‘crimes against humanity’ against Gaza protests

  • According to the UN probe, there is evidence that Israel committed crimes against humanity in responding to 2018 protests in Gaza
  • The commission said it conducted 325 interviews with victims, witnesses and other sources

GENEVA: A UN probe released Thursday said Israel may have committed crimes against humanity in responding to last year's unrest in Gaza, as snipers "intentionally" shot civilians including children, journalists and the disabled.
The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory investigated possible violations during demonstrations in the Gaza strip between March 30 and Dec.31 last year.
Commission chairman Santiago Canton said Israeli soldiers committed multiple breaches of international humanitarian law while suppressing protesters who were calling for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel.
"Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity," he said in a statement.
Commission member Sara Hossain told reporters in Geneva that Israeli snipers "intentionally shot children."
"They have intentionally shot people with disabilities. They have intentionally shot journalists," she added.
Health workers were also hit by snipers who shot more than 6,000 "unarmed demonstrators" during weeks of protest, according to the inquiry set up in May by the UN Human Rights Council.
Netanyahu said the rights council, a frequent target of criticism by Israel, had hit "new records of hypocrisy and lies, out of obsessive hatred of Israel."
Among the most contentious questions surrounding the protests was whether the demonstrators presented a threat to Israeli troops.
Netanyahu said on Twitter that "it is Hamas which fires rockets at Israeli civilians, bombs and carries out terrorist activities during the violent demonstrations on the fence."
But investigators pointed to evidence that Israeli troops targeted Palestinians "who were neither directly participating in hostilities, nor posing an imminent threat."
The commission also dismissed claims the protests were aimed to conceal acts of terrorism, describing the demonstrations as "civilian in nature".
"Despite some acts of significant violence, the commission found that the demonstrations did not constitute combat or military campaigns."
The investigators did not have access to the Israeli military's rules of engagement.
But, based on publicly available evidence, the commission said there is evidence that Israeli troops have been instructed that they can use lethal force against those who incite others to violence.
The so-called "main inciters" provision is at odds with international law and must be removed from Israel's rules of engagement, Canton told reporters.
The commission said it conducted 325 interviews with victims, witnesses and other sources, reviewed more than 8,000 documents and looked at drone footage among other material.
Israel did not cooperate with the probe or provide access to Gaza.
Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim told AFP that the panel's findings had proven that Israel "committed clear war crimes" against peaceful protesters and demanded justice.
Israel has however accused Hamas of using the protests as cover for infiltrations and attacks.
Canton told reporters the commission considered Hamas's culpability for the bloodshed, but stressed that since the demonstrations were generally peaceful in nature, Hamas was under no obligation to stop them.
"People have the right to demonstrate, they have the right to assembly," he told reporters.
"So to put responsibility on (Hamas) for letting those demonstrations happen (is) against international humanitarian law," he added.
The UN inquiry was in part tasked with identifying individuals who could be prosecuted for international crimes.
The commission declined to discuss specific suspects, but the report calls for the UN human rights office to manage the list of those with possible criminal responsibility and to share that information with relevant courts.
It also calls on states to "consider imposing individual sanctions, such as a travel ban or an assets freeze, on those identified as responsible by the commission."


Turkey launches air strike on Iraqi Kurdistan after killing of diplomat

Updated 19 July 2019
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Turkey launches air strike on Iraqi Kurdistan after killing of diplomat

  • Turkish vice consul to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region was shot dead Wednesday in the local capital Irbil
  • Turkish separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is suspected to be involved in the killing

ANKARA: Turkey on Thursday launched an air attack on Iraqi Kurdistan in response to the killing of a Turkish diplomat in the region, the country’s defense minister said.
The Turkish vice consul to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region was shot dead Wednesday in the local capital Irbil. Police sources said two other people were also killed.
There was no claim of responsibility for the shooting, but many Iraqi experts have pointed to the probability that the Turkish separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara considers a terrorist group, was behind the attack.
“Following the evil attack in Irbil, we have launched the most comprehensive air operation on Qandil and dealt a heavy blow to the (PKK) terror organization,” defense minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement.
Targets such as “armaments positions, lodgings, shelters and caves belonging to terrorists” were destroyed.
“Our fight against terror will continue with increasing determination until the last terrorist is neutralized and the blood of our martyrs will be avenged,” he added.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which now leads the regional government, enjoys good political and trade relations with Turkey.
But Turkey has been conducting a ground offensive and bombing campaign since May in the mountainous northern region to root out the PKK which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
Earlier this month, the PKK announced that one of those raids killed senior PKK leader Diyar Gharib Mohammed along with two other fighters.
A spokesman for the PKK’s armed branch denied the group was involved in Wednesday’s shooting.