On Monday the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict released its report and it’s in line with the already available information: In retaliation to the attacks from Gaza, Israel used excessive and indiscriminate force and much of it was against innocent Palestinian civilians.
It concluded that both Israel and Palestinian armed groups possibly committed war crimes. Both parties have rejected the report.
While the report has recorded the ‘unprecedented’ damage done by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), it has also highlighted the crimes committed against Israel. The damage caused by rockets and mortars fired from Gaza and the ‘increased level of fear among Israeli civilians resulting from the use of tunnels’ has been discussed at length.
The United States has said that it’ll not entertain the report at the UNSC and, along with Israel, is likely to press upon the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to not endorse the report when it comes up for a vote next week. It will be interesting to see how India, which is a UNHRC member, will vote.
Those who oppose the report fail to address the moot point it focuses on: The actions of the IDF during a conflict — and not Israel’s right to defend itself.
The report reflects the brutal force used by the IDF. In a 51-day operation, it conducted more than 6,000 airstrikes in Gaza, i.e., around 118 airstrikes daily in an area less than one-third the size of Delhi. And this was in addition to firing about 50,000 shells. This frenzy killed 1,462 Palestinian civilians, of whom more than 550 were children.
Israel claims that its forces follow the “highest international standards” but the commission is critical of its conduct, especially in instances where it has not shown much concern for ‘minimizing civilian causalities’.
For example, the IDF has been criticised for using the ‘Hannibal directive’ in Rafah and Shuja’iya, leading to mass killings. If an IDF soldier is killed or captured, the army invokes the ‘Hannibal directive’, which seals off areas through shelling and airstrikes to prevent the militants from escaping the area.
Israel has also come under scrutiny for targeting residential buildings with precision-guided weapons.
This proves that the questions the report raises cannot — and should not — be ignored. Ignoring it will be detrimental for peace in the region.
There’s a feeling of déjà vu in the way the 2014 report is being received. After the 2009 Gaza war, the UNHRC constituted a fact-finding mission.
The Goldstone report, as it was subsequently called, accused the IDF and Palestinian armed groups of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but both the parties rejected it.
The Netanyahu government and the Palestine leadership have to mend their ways, but, without doubt, greater responsibility lies with the former. It is unfortunate that Netanyahu has rubbished the report even before it was published and declared reading it a “waste of time”.
Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it — and that’s not a bright prospect.
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