Geneva / Tel Aviv (dpa) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has criticized Israel and the ruling Hamas in the Gaza Strip for the recent violence.
At a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday, Bachelet said that if Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza were “arbitrary and disproportionate” in its impact on civilians and civilian facilities, they could be war crimes. Hamas has violated international humanitarian law by indiscriminately firing rockets at Israel, including civilian casualties, and stationing military equipment in densely populated areas, Bachelet said.
The vast majority of speakers in the Human Rights Council mainly criticized the violence of the Israeli security forces. In the evening, the council set up a commission of inquiry against Israel’s protests to investigate possible human rights violations in Israel and the Palestinian territories. 24 countries voted in favor of the resolution tabled by Pakistan on behalf of many countries, Germany and 8 others against. 14 countries abstained. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “shameful decision”.
The most recent escalation of the conflict in the Middle East followed clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces on the Temple Mount (Al-Haram al-Sharif) in Jerusalem and in the Arab-dominated east of the city. Hamas fired more than 4,300 rockets into Israeli territory over 11 days from May 10. Israel responded with violent air strikes on the Gaza Strip. According to the local health ministry, 254 people were killed in the coastal area and 13 in Israel caused by rocket attacks by Hamas. The EU, the US and Israel classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Israel claims the airstrikes in Gaza targeted buildings used for military purposes, Bachelet said. “We have not seen any evidence of this,” she added. She also accused the security forces of using disproportionate force to end demonstrations against the threat of eviction of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem.
It is the eighth investigation into the Palestinian Territories that the Human Rights Council has planned since its inception in 2006. Nearly a quarter of all investigations concern the Palestinian Territories. Israel and the US repeatedly accuse the Council of being biased against Israel. “Today’s shameful decision is another example of the UN Human Rights Council’s undisguised anti-Israel obsession,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Thursday.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu criticized Israel at the meeting, speaking of “crimes against humanity” and a “campaign of systematic, ethnic, religious and cultural cleansing,” as the state news agency Anadolu reported. Like most participants, it was connected via video.
Israeli Ambassador Meirav Eilon Shachar rejected all allegations against her country and its armed forces. Hamas is a “murderous, extreme terrorist organization” that uses civilians as human shields.
The Israeli newspaper “Haaretz” on Thursday showed photos of 67 dead Palestinian children and adolescents aged six months to 17 years on the front page. “That’s the price of war,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, Israel has summoned the ambassador to Israel in protest at a statement by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Le Drian had spoken on a television program about an approaching “apartheid” in Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told the ambassador, according to the ministry, that Israel expects friendly states not to play into the hands of radical and anti-Israeli forces with irresponsible statements. In April, the human rights group Human Rights Watch accused Israel of pursuing an apartheid policy against the Palestinians.
Apartheid has been called the doctrine of the separation of individual ethnic groups, as it existed mainly in South Africa until 1994. Apartheid is also an internationally defined crime against humanity.