UN human rights director Michelle Bachelet has stated if Israel’s recent strikes on the besieged Gaza Strip, which killed more than 200 Palestinians, are found to be excessive, they may constitute “war crimes.”
Bachelet’s remarks came as she began a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday, which was convened at the request of Pakistan – on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – and Palestine.
The UN representative said that she had found no proof that civilian structures in Gaza were being utilized for military purposes after being struck by Israeli fighter plan
“If found disproportionate, such attacks might constitute war crimes,” Bachelet told the 47-member Geneva forum. She also urged Hamas, which runs Gaza, to refrain from firing rockets indiscriminately on Israeli territory.
According to the Gaza health ministry, the 11-day attack on the Gaza Strip, which started on May 10, killed at least 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and injured over 1,900 others.
During the same time period, at least 12 persons were murdered in Israel by rockets launched from Gaza by Hamas and other armed organizations, including three foreign workers and two children. During the same time period, at least 12 persons were murdered in Israel by rockets launched from Gaza by Hamas and other armed organizations, including three foreign workers and two children.
“Although reportedly targeting members of armed groups and their military infrastructure, the Israeli attacks resulted in extensive civilian deaths and injuries, as well as large-scale destruction and damage to civilian objects,” said Bachelet, highlighting the scale of the destruction in Gaza, which has been under a 14-year-old Israeli blockade.
Government buildings, private residences, international humanitarian organizations, medical institutions, and media offices were all struck in the two-million-strong enclave, she said. It has been labeled “the world’s largest open-air prison” by the United Nations.
“Despite Israel’s claims that many of these buildings were hosting armed groups or being used for military purposes, we have not seen evidence in this regard,” said Bachelet
“There is no doubt that Israel has the right to defend its citizens and residents,” she added. “However, Palestinians have rights too. The same rights.”