The UN human rights head warned on Thursday that Israel’s assault on Hamas in Gaza over 11 days this month might amount to war crimes.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, asked for a probe into the core causes of the violence during a Human Rights Council meeting in Switzerland.
The battle between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist organization killed over 200 people and caused extensive structural damage throughout Gaza. In the face of significant international condemnation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to halt the bombardment for days, until Egypt helped arrange a cease-fire a week ago.
Bachelet slammed Israel for the attacks and Hamas for retaliating with rocket firing into Israel on Thursday.
“Such strikes raise serious concerns of Israel’s compliance with the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law,” Bachelet said in a statement.
“If found to be indiscriminate and disproportionate in their impact on civilians and civilian objects, such attacks may constitute war crimes.”
Bachelet went on to say that Hamas most certainly violated international law by locating and firing military equipment from densely populated civilian neighborhoods. She stated that an inquiry must be launched to uncover “systematic discrimination and repression” in Israel and Palestine.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Meirav Eilon Shahar, voiced worry that such investigation would aim to transfer blame to Israel while ignoring Hamas’ participation.
“This terrorist organization fired more than 4,400 rockets at Israeli civilians,” Shahar said in a statement.
“The rockets were fired by Hamas from Palestinian homes, hospitals, and schools. Each one of these rockets constitutes a war crime. Each one of these rockets constitutes a tragedy.”
US President Joe Biden criticized the conflict but emphasized Israel’s right to self-defense. This week, he dispatched Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a Middle East diplomatic mission that included stops in Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, and Jordan. He met with Netanyahu, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during his travels.