NEW YORK: Palestinian leaders called on Thursday for Israel to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court after UN investigators accused Israeli security forces of unlawfully killing 189 Palestinians and injuring more than 6,100 at protests in Gaza last year.
Israel’s soldiers “killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities,” the independent UN panel said.
“Some of these violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity,” said Argentine legal expert Santiago Canton, who led the panel.
The report, covering the period from March 30 to Dec. 31 last year, was based on hundreds of interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as medical records, video and drone footage, and photographs.
The findings confirmed “what we have always said, that Israel conducts war crimes against our people in Gaza and the West Bank, including in Jerusalem,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said. “The International Criminal Court should act immediately.”
Hamas, which controls Gaza, called for Israel to be held accountable.
Israel rejected the report “outright,” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the rights council, a frequent target of criticism by the Jewish State, had hit “new records of hypocrisy and lies, out of obsessive hatred of Israel.”
In a further blow to Netanyahu, he is to be indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, said on Thursday. The long-awaited announcement comes ahead of April 9 elections in which Netanyahu faces a challenge from a centrist political alliance headed by former military chief Benny Gantz.
The prime minister dismissed the charges against him as a politically motivated “witch-hunt” and vowed to clear his name. “There is nothing to these allegations,” he said after the attorney general’s statement. “This entire house of cards will collapse.”