Gaza Strip 2008. Photograph NASA
The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry concluded Israeli troops may have committed war crimes during the Gaza protests dubbed as the “Great March of Return”.
Publishing a report, the Commission of Inquiry found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli soldiers shot at children, medics and journalists, violating international human rights and humanitarian law.
The Commission investigated the deaths of 189 Palestinians from March 30, 2018 until December 31, 2018, and found that 183 of these protestors were killed by the Israeli Security Forces with live ammunition. Among those who were killed, 35 fatalities were children, three were clearly marked paramedics and two were clearly marked journalists.
The Commission also reported that 6,106 Palestinians were injured with live ammunition while another 3,098 were injured by bullet fragmentation.
One Israeli soldier was killed on a protest day but not on the protest sites. Four Israeli soldiers were injured at the protests.
Israel Katz, Israel’s acting Foreign Minister rejected the findings saying that “the Human Rights Council’s theatre of absurd has once again produced a report that is hostile, mendacious and biased against Israel.”
“No one can deny Israel the right to self-defence and the obligation to protect its citizens and its borders against violent attacks,” he added.
The large-scale protests in the Gaza Strip began in March 2018 to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what now constitutes as Israel.
The Israeli government said that these protests were being used by terrorists to infiltrate Israel to carry out attacks, accusing Hamas of being behind the protests.
The Commission took note of the Israeli claim that the protests were a masked attempt to carry out terror activities. However, the Commission found that the protests were civilian in nature with clearly stated political aims.
Santiago Canton, the Chairman of the Commission said, “the onus is now on Israel to investigate every protest-related killing and injury, promptly, impartially and independently in accordance with international standards, to determine whether war crimes or crimes against humanity were committed, with a view to holding accountable those found responsible.”