UN war crimes investigators yesterday called on Israel to stop its snipers using lethal force against protesters in the Gaza Strip, as the anniversary approached of the start of demonstrations there, Reuters reported.
The Commission of Inquiry said Israel should investigate the shooting of more than 6,000 people, far beyond the criminal inquiries it has announced into 11 killings.
“The most important thing for the government of Israel is to review the rules of engagement immediately and to ensure that the rules of engagement are according to accepted international law standards,” the commission’s chairman Santiago Canton told the Human Rights Council.
Israel says the UN council is biased, and it boycotted the day-long debate.
Canton said Israel’s Supreme Court should review the confidential rules governing lethal force after the panel found it had been “in the majority of cases authorised unlawfully”.
“In a situation of crowd control, which is the way we see these demonstrations, rubber bullets could have been used,” Canton told reporters, rather than “high-velocity bullets and long-range sniper rifles equipped with sophisticated optical aiming devices”.
Large crowds are expected to mark the anniversary of the start of the Gaza demonstrations on 30 March, he said.
The protesters were demanding that Israel ease its blockade of Gaza and recognise their right to return to lands their families were forced out of to make way for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
The commission’s preliminary report said last month that Israeli security forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in its response.
Canton said the independent experts were sending their confidential list of suspected perpetrators to UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, for forwarding to the International Criminal Court, which opened a preliminary examination of alleged Israeli abuses in 2015.
Earlier, a UN human rights investigator said Israel was depriving millions of Palestinians of access to regular clean water supplies and stripping the land of minerals “in an apparent act of pillage”.
UN special rapporteur Michael Lynk said Israel “continues full-steam with settlement expansion” in the West Bank, which the United Nations and many countries deem illegal. There were 20,000-25,000 new settlers a year, he said.