The UN Human Rights Council’s Gaza report, which has been accused of bias, claims that Israel deliberately targeted civilians in last year’s war against Hamas.
Special investigator Makarim Wibisono of Indonesia will present a report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Monday claiming that Israel intentionally targeted civilian homes during Operation Protective Edge. The report will be introduced during the discussion on Israel that is a mandated part of every UNHRC session. Israel is the only country that has its own spot on the UNHRC’s agenda.
Hamas made extensive use of human shields during last summer’s conflict, hiding weapons caches and tunnel entrances inside civilian infrastructure, including homes, schools and mosques. As a result, the IDF was forced to carry out most of its operations in civilian areas. The question for the UNHRC is whether civilian fatalities were the inevitable result of Hamas’s use of human shields or whether Israel intentionally targeted civilians. According to the report, Israel “deliberately” targeted civilian homes.
Israel responded to the report by describing the UNHRC as a kangaroo court whose conclusions were predetermined. However, the country is optimistic that the report will be less biased following the resignation of anti-Israel legal expert William Schabas from the Gaza probe. Schabas failed to disclose that he had provided legal advice to the PLO when he was assigned to lead the investigation.
According to Israeli estimates, 2,100 Palestinian were killed during the war, of which half were civilians. The UN, however, recorded 2,256 fatalities, of which 1,538 were civilians.
“Most victims were families killed in missile strikes on their own homes, usually at night,” Wibisono noted. “In the non-exhaustive list of cases brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur almost all of the families lost one or more infants or children.”
He also noted that the Palestinian casualty count was higher than in previous wars in Gaza, and that the disparity in the number of casualties brought into question whether Israel followed “international principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions.” Proportionality under international law refers to whether the amount of force used is proportional to the actual threat, not to the number of people killed. During the conflict, Hamas fired 4,564 rockets and mortars into Israel, a record number, reaching as far as Haifa. Furthermore, a major task of the IDF during the war was the demolition of over 30 tunnels dug by Hamas for the purpose of infiltrating 200 terrorists into Israel to carry out a massive attack.
The UNHRC is required to discuss potential Israeli human rights violations at every session under Agenda Item 7. As a result, the council, since its establishment in 2006, has passed 50 condemnations of Israel, representing 46% of all country-specific resolutions. The UNHRC replaced the Commission for Human Rights, which was disbanded due to criticism that it allowed routine human rights violators to be members.