The UN Human Rights Council has after a special convention in Geneva, voted to investigate the possibility of war crimes in Gaza.
Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights at the UN said that “international law has been violated in a manner that could amount to war crimes”. The vote was approved with 29-1-17 with the only nay vote coming from the United States. The United Kingdom abstained.
The decision was reached as the numbers coming out of Palestine said that there have been 693 casualties in Gaza, 166 of which have been children. Reports suggest that over the last two days, a child in Gaza has been killed every hour. Israel has been accused of bombing civilian locations, including a hospital. Over 80% of the Palestinian casualties have reportedly been civilians.
Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni reacted with a nonchalant disregard for the international body, saying with impunity that the council should “get lost”. Netanyahu reacted angrily, calling it a “travesty [that]should be rejected by decent people everywhere”. Such a reaction suggests a paranoia unbefitting to a supposedly liberal nation who insists that war crimes have not been committed on their side.
On the other side, Hamas has been accused of firing rockets indiscriminately at civilian targets. One such rocket landed near Ben Gurian airport, forcing America’s Federal Aviation Agency to cancel all flights to the airport. Israel has protested, saying that it is safe to fly in to the airport. The assertion of safety runs opposite to the Israeli conviction that the bombardment of Gaza is self-defence against the Gazan rockets which have made Israel unsafe. Two Israeli civilians have lost their life as a result of the rockets coming from Hamas.
It will be important that the action of Hamas does not go unnoticed by the UN Council.
The Guardian reported that Pillay also called for an end to the blockade of Gaza.
The UN vote and Pillay’s words coincided with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal’s press conference in Qatar. The leader of Hamas – which the United States and Israel deem a terrorist group – said that “everything in Gaza is collapsing: no water, no electricity, no medicine, no gas, no food”. In words that echoed Pillay’s, Meshaal again reiterated that Hamas would not accept a ceasefire unless the siege of Gaza was lifted. President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas has lent his support to the demands.
Israel may have unwittingly given credence to Hamas’ arguments regarding the siege. The effects on the Israeli economy will be marginal but the issue has been raised. This substantiates the Hamas claim that a besieged Gaza is not a viable economic situation.
The decision by the UN should benefit the Palestinians, though it is unclear what effect it will have on forcing a ceasefire.