The UN has voted in favour of sending an international war crimes probe to Gaza after the body’s leading human rights official slammed Israel‘s reaction to the protests along the Gaza border as “wholly disproportionate.”
The United Nations Human Rights Council voted to immediately dispatch a team of international experts to Gaza to determine whether Israel had committed war crimes by shooting Palestinian protesters who were participating in the Great March of Return.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva “There is little evidence of any attempt to minimise casualties on Monday,”
Israeli snipers killed nearly 60 Palestinians and wounded 2,000 at mass border protests on Monday.
The Independent reports: The council voted through the resolution by 29 in favour and two opposed, while 14 states abstained.
The resolution also condemned “the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.”
Israel condemned the resolution, which was put forward by a group of countries including Pakistan. The United States decried it as an example of a biased focus on Israel by the council.
Both lamented that it didn’t mention Gaza’s Hamas rulers, whom Israel blames for the violence.
The “independent, international commission of inquiry” mandated by the council will be asked to produce a final report next March.
In a vigorous speech, Mr Zeid slammed the “appalling” recent events in Gaza and called for the occupation of Palestine by Israel to end.
He said the 1.9 million people living in Gaza had been denied human rights by Israeli authorities and described those living in the Palestinian enclave as “caged in a toxic slum from birth to death”.
“They are, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death; deprived of dignity; dehumanised by the Israeli authorities to such a point it appears officials do not even consider that these men and women have a right, as well as every reason, to protest,” he said.
The vote for an investigation came days after Israeli forces shot and killed 59 Palestinians and injured more than 2,700 during mass protests along the Gaza border on the day the US officially opened its embassy in Jerusalem.
Mr Zeid said that under international law, Israel was obligated to protect the population of Gaza and ensure their welfare, “but there is little evidence of any attempt to minimise casualties,” he added.
The human rights chief said 118 Palestinians, including 15 children, were killed since protests began on 30 March. He said the number continues to climb as some of the injured die from their wounds.
He compared the Palestinians’ use of Molotov cocktails, slingshots and burning kites against the “horrifying and criminal violence” with which they were met.
“The stark contrast in casualties on both sides is … suggestive of a wholly disproportionate response. Killings resulting from the unlawful use of force by an occupying power may also constitute ‘wilful killings’ – a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” he told the UN council.