Israeli Government To Refuse Entry to UN Team Investigating War Crimes in Gaza
'It's business as usual,' says critic, for Netanyahu government 'to commit severe human rights violations and war crimes and refuse to be held accountable.'
Israel announced Wednesday it will refuse entry to United Nations human rights investigators who seek to probe potential war crimes committed in the latest 50-day military assault on Gaza.
The 47-member UN Human Rights Council in July approved the inquiry into "all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Gaza Strip in the context of military operations conducted since mid June," focusing on the actions of Israel as well as Hamas. Twenty-nine nations voted in favor of the investigation, with the U.S. issuing the sole "no" vote.
In a Wednesday evening statement reported by numerous media outlets, Israel's foreign ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon announced that Israel will not cooperate with the rights council's commission, which is headed by international law professor William Schabas.
As a result, the investigators will not be allowed to enter Gaza through the Erez crossing, which is under Israel's control. The Rafah crossing was recently closed off by the Egyptian government, meaning that entry is likely to be difficult for the UN team.
In his statement, Nahshon accused the rights council of "obsessive hostility toward Israel," echoing Israel's previous condemnation of the investigation as a "kangaroo court."
Critics charge that the UN, in fact, does not go far enough, as U.S. veto power prevents the international community from acting on this and other inquiries, including the Goldstone Report, which reviewed a previous Israeli military attack on Gaza in 2009.
Nahshon's statements are in keeping with Israel's repeated dismissal of criticisms for the war on Gaza, which killed at least 2,194 Palestinians, at least 75 percent of them civilians and over 500 of them children. Seventy-two Israelis, six of them civilians, also died in the conflict. Israel destroyed over half of Gaza's hospitals and health centers and struck six UN schools sheltering Palestinians, including in cases where the UNRWA formally submitted coordinates of the shelters to the Israeli military. Israel has been accused of possible war crimes in the offensive by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
This is not the first time Israel has publicly criticized the rights council. Israel severed ties with the body in 2012, following the council's launch of an investigation into Israeli settlements in the West Bank, considered illegal under international law.
"It's business as usual for Israel to commit severe human rights violations and war crimes and refuse to be held accountable," Ramah Kudaimi of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation told Common Dreams. "Now it's time for the international community to take real action and sanction Israel."