UN: Both Israel, Gaza militants may be guilty of war crimes
A United Nations (UN) investigation yesterday accused both Israel and Hamas militants of committing possible war crimes in last summer's Gaza war, finding that Israeli air strikes on residential buildings caused many civilian deaths and suggesting Israeli leaders knowingly endangered them.
The report, which Israel rejected as biased, further strained its already-troubled relations with the world body and could provide new ammunition in a preliminary investigation of Israel at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
Hamas, condemned for indiscriminately firing thousands of rockets at Israeli cities and its use of tunnels to infiltrate border towns, also rejected the report.
"We must remember that victims are not just numbers or collateral damage - that unfortunate word. They are individual people with human rights," Mary McGowan Davis, the American judge who led the investigation, told journalists in Geneva.
The war started July 8, 2014, after a chain of events stemming from the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank by Hamas militants and the kidnapping of a Palestinian teenager who was burned to death by Jewish extremists in a revenge attack. Israel arrested hundreds of Hamas members in raids in the West Bank, prompting militant groups in Gaza to step up their rocket attacks.
More than 2,200 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, were killed during the fighting, according to the UN. Seventy-three people, including six civilians, among them a four-year-old boy, died on the Israeli side. Israel has blamed Hamas for the civilian casualties, saying the group used schools, mosques and residential areas for cover and noting that Hamas repeatedly fired rockets from populated areas.
The Israeli military carried out more than 6,000 air strikes in Gaza during the war, including many that struck residential buildings.