UPDATE – UN report points out Israel's 2014 Gaza violations

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‘Israel must break with its lamentable track record in holding wrong doers accountable,’ says s a UN report

ADDS: THE WHITE HOUSE COMMENTS

GENEVA – An independent United Nations inquiry on Monday pointed out the impunity with which Israeli forces committed gave human rights violations in the Gaza Strip and West Bank during its offensive in 2014.

“Israel must break with its lamentable track record in holding wrong doers accountable,” the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Gaza Conflict said in a statement.

The statement followed the commission’s report released Monday about the 2014 Gaza conflict that witnessed widespread human rights violations.

The report noted that there was a huge increase in firepower during the conflict in 2014, with over 6,000 airstrikes carried out by the Israeli army and about 50,000 tank and artillery shells fired; Palestinian armed groups also reportedly fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars toward Israel between July and August 2014.

“In the 51-day operation, 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed, a third of them children,” the report said, adding that six civilians were killed in Israel.

It highlighted the fact that hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed in their own homes, especially women and children during airstrikes that reduced buildings to piles of dust and rubble within seconds.

“The fact that Israel did not revise its practice of airstrikes, even after their dire effects on civilians became apparent, and raises the question of whether this was part of a broader policy which was at least tacitly approved at the highest level of government,” the report said.

The commission voiced its concern in the report over Israel’s extensive use of weapons with a wide kill and injury radius, “though not illegal, their use in densely populated areas is highly likely to kill combatants and civilians indiscriminately”.

The report also highlighted that hundreds of people were killed and thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged during the Israeli ground offensive into Gaza that began in mid-July 2014.

“There was an explosion about every 10 seconds,” the report quoted a witness in Rafah city as saying.

The report also noted that Israeli civilians were also affected by the conflict.

“The idea of tunnels traumatized Israeli civilians,” who feared unexpected attacks, it said, adding that the Israeli army discovered 14 tunnels, extending from Gaza into Israel.

The report also said that indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets and mortars at Israel “appeared to have the intention of spreading terror among civilians there”.

The report said the commission had gathered substantial information pointing to the possible commission of war crimes by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups.

The commission also expressed concern over Israel’s decision to close its criminal investigation into the case of killing of four children on the beach in Gaza on July 16, 2014.

Palestinian faction Hamas welcomed the UN commission’s report for highlighting grave human rights violations of Israel.

“The clear condemnation in the UN report requires the referral of Israeli government officials to the International Criminal Court, or the ICC, and other international courts that are assigned to try those who commit crimes against our people,” Hamas said in a written statement.

Israeli government’s reaction also came immediately after the report’s release.

A White House spokesman said the U.S. is still reviewing the report.

While the U.S. supports Israel’s “right to self-defense,” at the same time, “we expressed deep concern about the civilians in Gaza that were in harm’s way. And we urged all parties to do everything they could to protect innocent civilians who were essentially caught in the crossfire of this conflict,” said Josh Earnest.

“We await further outcomes from the Israeli government on this particular matter,” he added.

 

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