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UN Report Finds Israel Has Committed Crimes Against Humanity in Gaza

Crimes against humanity are typically considered the most serious violations of international law.

Palestinian men walk along a narrow street past destroyed buildings in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip on June 11, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group.

A pair of bombshell UN reports have concluded that Israeli forces committed grave war crimes on and around October 7 and have committed a large number of crimes against humanity in the period of time since then in Gaza and the West Bank. These reports present the UN’s most thorough and damning accounts of atrocities committed by Israeli forces in their genocidal war against Palestinians so far.

In a report released on Wednesday by the UN Commission of Inquiry that covers the period from October 7 to the end of 2023, the commission found that Israel has committed a large range of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza.

These findings are especially serious as crimes against humanity are defined as attacks waged against civilian populations and are typically deemed the most dire violations of international law.

The crimes against humanity that investigators found Israel has committed include the crime of extermination, which is the intentional mass killing of an entire group of people, “including by inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of part of a population.”

The report also lists gender persecution as a crime against humanity, with Israel Defense Forces creating a “culture that allowed – and may have even encouraged – [soldiers] to humiliate and degrade Palestinians on the basis of gender.”

In terms of war crimes and international law violations, the commission concludes that Israel has directly targeted civilians and civilian objects and meted out collective punishment against Palestinians; has been using starvation as a weapon of war; has forcibly displaced at least 1.7 million people in Gaza; has systematically committed sexual violence against Palestinians; and has seen its senior officials inciting numerous calls to extinguish Palestinian civilians and life in Gaza.

The crimes against children have been especially dire, the report notes, including Israel’s widespread killing and maiming of children and the lasting developmental and mental impacts that the massacre will have on an entire generation of Palestinian children.

Israeli officials refused to cooperate with UN investigators, directing medical professionals not to provide information that could aid their analysis, the report said.

In its analysis of the October 7 attack in particular, the commission found that both Palestinian and Israeli armed forces committed war crimes during the attack. It confirmed reports that Hamas forces deliberately targeted Israeli citizens during the attack that killed at least 809 civilians, which came after decades of “violence, unlawful occupation and Israel’s denial of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination,” the report said.

Significantly, it also highlighted the more underreported role that Israeli forces had in perpetrating violations against civilians on October 7. According to the report, Israeli officials “failed to protect civilians in southern Israel on almost every front,” including a failure to implement evacuations from civilian locations during the attack.

Further, the report found that Israeli forces had, themselves, added to the civilian death toll of October 7, killing at least 14 Israelis as part of the so-called Hannibal Directive that instructs Israeli soldiers to undertake any actions necessary to avoid capture by enemy forces, up to and potentially including the killing of fellow Israeli soldiers.

In this case, Israeli forces killed 13 Israeli civilian hostages who were being held in a house in southern Israel via tank fire on October 7, the report found, while an Israeli helicopter killed one Israeli civilian while she was being abducted.

“[B]oth the 7 October attack in Israel and Israel’s subsequent military operation in Gaza should not be seen in isolation. The only way to stop the recurring cycles of violence, including aggression and retribution by both sides, is to ensure strict adherence to international law,” the report read. “That includes ending the unlawful Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, discrimination, oppression and the denial of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and guaranteeing peace and security for Jews and Palestinians.”

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