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UN Human Rights Council votes to investigate alleged crimes in conflict between Israel, Hamas

UN Human Rights Council votes to investigate alleged crimes in conflict between Israel, Hamas

The United Nations Human Rights Council voted Thursday to create an international investigation to look into possible crimes during the 11-day conflict between Israel and militant groups in the Gaza Strip this month.

The body voted to establish the inquiry by a 24-9 vote, with 14 abstentions. The resolution to form the investigation was first brought forth by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations.

The establishment of the probe comes as Israel faces a slew of accusations of war crimes over its punishing aerial and artillery campaign against militants in Gaza, which was launched in response to the launching of thousands of rockets from Hamas and other groups toward southern and central Israel.

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The fighting led to the deaths of more than 250 Palestinians, including 66 children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. A dozen Israelis were also killed, including two children.

Israel’s campaign against the militants, which the Israeli military maintained targeted militant infrastructure, devastated the coastal enclave, damaging businesses and leaving thousands of Gazans homeless.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said during the debate over the resolution that while Hamas hid its rocket launchers in civilian areas in the Gaza Strip, Israel still had an obligation to protect Palestinians from its airstrikes and that its actions might constitute war crimes.

“Government buildings, residential homes and apartments, humanitarian organizations, medical and media facilities were totally or partially destroyed, despite Israel’s precautions – these attacks may constitute war crimes. Locating military assets in densely populated civilian areas, and launching attacks from them, was also a violation of international humanitarian law – but the actions of one party did not absolve the other from its obligations,” Bachelet said.

“Palestinian civilians had virtually no protection against airstrikes, living in one of the most densely populated areas of the world.  Both sides had rights to defend their citizens, and Palestinians had the right to live safely and freely in their homes, something that they were unable to experience due to the Israeli blockade,” she said.

Israel, which has long maintained that it is the target of bias by the United Nations, panned the investigation as antisemitic.

“The resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva calling for establishing a Commission of Inquiry to investigate Israel is outrageous. This appalling, one-sided antisemitic resolution has effectively predetermined the results of the so-called investigation. It ignores the rockets fired at Israeli civilians and equates Israel with Hamas, a terrorist organization, thereby legitimizing Hamas and other terrorist organizations worldwide,” Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, said in a statement.