Human rights groups demanded accountability and justice for victims on Thursday after United Nations investigators said Israeli troops may have committed war crimes during anti-occupation protests in Gaza last year.
"The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities," the U.N. officials wrote in a new report (pdf), which relied on interviews, thousands of documents, and video footage showing Israeli soldiers using live ammunition against Palestinians—including children, journalists, and medical workers.
"Particularly alarming is the targeting of children and persons with disabilities. Many young persons' lives have been altered forever."
—Sara Hossein, Bangladeshi lawyer According to the report—which is the result of a months-long investigation—Israeli snipers killed over 180 unarmed Palestinians and injured more than 6,100 others with live ammunition between March 30 and December 31 of last year.
Bangladeshi lawyer Sara Hossein said in a statement that there "can be no justification for killing and injuring journalists, medics, and persons who pose no imminent threat of death or serious injury to those around them."
"Particularly alarming is the targeting of children and persons with disabilities," Hossain continued. "Many young persons' lives have been altered forever. One hundred twenty-two people have had a limb amputated since March 30 last year. Twenty of these amputees are children."
#COIProtests: (1/2) Israeli snipers deployed near the separation fence to police the protests referred to as “the Great March of Return”, shot over 6106 demonstrators, killing 183, between 30 March 2018 and 31 December 2018. #Gaza #UN #HumanRights Report: https://t.co/PhDGvbQnV3 pic.twitter.com/1LISfvQghd
— HRC SECRETARIAT (@UN_HRC) February 28, 2019
Santiago Canton of Argentina, who chaired the U.N. panel that compiled the report, said the detailed investigation found that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that "Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law" during last year's anti-occupation protests.
"Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel," Canton added.
But as the report points out, Israeli officials have not been quick to probe those responsible for killing and maiming Palestinian civilians:
The government of Israel has consistently failed to meaningfully investigate and prosecute commanders and soldiers for crimes and violations committed against Palestinians or to provide reparation to victims in accordance with international norms.
In a statement, Amnesty International called the U.N.'s conclusions "damning" and called for Israel's "long-standing cycle of impunity" to finally come to an end.
"The U.N. must now follow through on its recommendations to gather information on alleged perpetrators that can be passed to national and international justice mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court," concluded Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International's deputy Middle East and North Africa director. "Those responsible for these deplorable crimes must not go unpunished."