News / Middle East

UN: Israel, Hamas May Be Guilty of War Crimes

FILE - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay attends a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 2, 2013.
FILE - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay attends a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 2, 2013.
Lisa Schlein

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, says the targeting of civilian infrastructure or the use of civilian structures for military purposes violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law.  She warns both Israel and Hamas may be guilty of war crimes in breaching these humanitarian principles.  U.N. figures show civilians, including many children and women, account for 74 percent of the more than 1,200 Palestinians who have been killed.  Nearly 60 Israelis have been killed, including two civilians. 

Civilians are bearing the brunt of the war in Gaza, which is now into its 24th day.  

Hundreds of civilian structures have been damaged and destroyed in the Palestinian enclave.  The U.N.’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, says homes, hospitals, U.N. schools, and life-sustaining infrastructure, such as the power station, water and sewage services in Gaza are protected under international law.  

She says attacks against objects which are being used exclusively for humanitarian assistance may amount to a war crime.  She notes 250,000 Palestinians now are sheltering in schools run by UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.  She calls the shelling by Israel of these schools and the killing and wounding of civilians sheltering there as unconscionable.  

She also condemns Hamas’ use of U.N. premises as a repository for weapons, calling this a flagrant violation of the neutrality of U.N. premises.

“Locating rockets in schools and hospitals or even launching these rockets from densely populated areas are violations of international humanitarian law.  But, it does not absolve the other party, that is Israel, from not itself observing its obligations under international humanitarian law," she said.  

Three kilometer buffer zone in the Gaza Strip that the Israeli army has designated a no-go zone.Three kilometer buffer zone in the Gaza Strip that the Israeli army has designated a no-go zone.
x
Three kilometer buffer zone in the Gaza Strip that the Israeli army has designated a no-go zone.
Three kilometer buffer zone in the Gaza Strip that the Israeli army has designated a no-go zone.

Pillay says Israel, as an occupying power, has certain obligations toward Palestinians.  She says Israel must fulfill its obligation to provide people in Gaza with medical care.  It must protect peoples' right to housing, food, and clean water.  

While she is critical of Israel’s military actions in Gaza, she also finds grave fault with Hamas.  She says she understands Israel’s concerns and its need to protect its people.

“I have condemned the rocket attacks because they are indiscriminate directed at the civilian population and it is a fact that Israeli children have as much right to life as do Gaza children,” she said. 
 
Pillay says both parties to the war must respect the cardinal principle related to the conduct of hostilities.  That she says is the principle of distinction, proportionality and precautions.   

She says she joins the world in condemning the aggression that is taking place in Gaza and particularly the killing of civilians.  She notes both Israel and Hamas present arguments justifying their actions.  But, as far as she is concerned, she says what is going on in Gaza is wrong and will always be wrong.

  • Hajar Muharram, 5, sits in a classroom where the family of seven now live, at a U.N. school, in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 31, 2014.
  • Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (L) attend a cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv July 31, 2014.
  • A woman carries a bag of food supplies that she received from a United Nations food distribution center in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 31, 2014.
  • People pray next to the bodies of Palestinians from the al-Silk family during their funeral in Gaza City July 31, 2014.
  • Heygar Jendiyah, left, points to where the family house kitchen once stood, partially destroyed by a previous air strike, as her children Ranin, 10, center, and Helmi, right, listen, in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip,
  • An Israeli soldier stands atop an armored vehicle at a staging area near the border with the Gaza Strip July 31, 2014.
  • Israeli soldiers carry cases at a staging area near the border with the Gaza Strip July 31, 2014
  • Israeli tanks at a staging area near the border with the Gaza Strip July 31, 2014.

 

 

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs