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Israel, Palestinians May Be Guilty of Gaza War Crimes: UN Report

Israeli and Palestinian groups committed abuses of humanitarian law during the 2014 Gaza conflict that may amount to war crimes, a U.N. report said,
/ Source: Reuters

GENEVA – Both Palestinian militant groups and Israel committed grave abuses of international humanitarian law during the 2014 Gaza conflict that may amount to war crimes, according to a report by U.N. investigators Monday.

Israel disputed the findings, saying its military had “acted according to the highest international standards." There was no immediate response from Hamas.

The report called on Israel to explain its "targeting decisions" and to allow independent assessment of its attacks on the Gaza Strip, where they said 1,462 civilians were killed and thousands of homes destroyed.

Led by American Mary McGowan Davis, the investigators also condemned what they concluded were executions of alleged Palestinian "collaborators" with Israel by militants in Gaza, saying these killings appeared to constitute war crimes.

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A cease-fire last August ended 50 days of fighting between Gaza militants and Israel in which health officials said more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

Israeli airstrikes and shelling hammered the densely-populated enclave dominated by the Islamist Hamas movement, causing widespread destruction of homes and schools. For their part, Gaza militants fired thousands of rockets and mortar bombs into Israel.

Both sides have denied violating the laws of war duringthe conflict.

"The commission was able to gather substantial information pointing to serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by Israel and by Palestinian armed groups. In some cases, these violations may amount to war crimes," the report said. "The fact that the (Israeli) political and military leadership did not change its course of action, despite considerable information regarding the massive degree of death and destruction in Gaza, raises questions about potential violations of international humanitarian law by these officials, which may amount to war crimes."

The United States, the Israelis' staunch ally in the U.N. Human Rights Council, accuses the Geneva forum of a long-standing bias against Israel.

It said the U.N. report had "problematic origins" as its authors lacked experience of international humanitarian law.