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7 October on Israel, following operations in Gaza did not occur in vacuum: Head of UN Commission

June 19, 2024 at 4:00 pm

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay gives a press conference on December 2, 2013 at the United Nations offices in Geneva. [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images]

The 7 October attack on Israel and the subsequent military operation in Gaza did not occur in a vacuum as they were preceded by decades of violence and retribution against Palestinians, UN Commissioner, Navi Pillay, said Wednesday, Anadolu Agency reports.

Pillay, a judge from South Africa, is a former UN Human Rights chief and head of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Israel.

“In relation to Israel’s military operations and attacks in Gaza from 7 October, we conclude that Israeli authorities are responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law,” said Pillay.

These include “extermination, intentionally directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, murder or wilful killing, using starvation as a method of war, forcible transfer, gender persecution targeting Palestinian men and boys, sexual and gender-based violence amounting to torture, and cruel or inhuman treatment.”

READ: South Africa says Israel’s attack on Gaza is undermining the ICJ

Speaking about a report presented to the Human Rights Council, the UN Commissioner said the world faces its biggest threat of impunity for violations of international law unless perpetrators are held to account and justice is delivered for all victims.

“The 7 October attack in Israel and Israel’s subsequent military operation in Gaza have not occurred in a vacuum. They were preceded by decades of violence and retribution, dispossession, unlawful Occupation and denial of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination,” said Pillay.

Report going to UN General Assembly

She said her report will be presented to the UN General Assembly in October.

The UN Commissioner said that in the eight months since 7 October, when attackers from Gaza launched attacks in Israel, tens of thousands of children, women, and men have been killed and injured.

Since 7 October, Pillay’s Commission has carried out two parallel investigations: first, into attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in Israel on 7-8 October, and another into Israeli military operations and attacks on Gaza between 7 October and 31 December last year,

“Thousands of Palestinians have been detained and are being held incommunicado, and 120 Israeli hostages are still held in Gaza,” Pillay said.

“The enormity of this tragedy overwhelms us, and we are deeply disturbed by the immense human suffering.”

She said that international law has strict and clear regulations on the conduct of war and self-defence.

One of its fundamental principles which underscored Pillay’s Commission’s findings is that unlawful action by one party to an armed conflict does not justify unlawful action by another party.

“Israel has a right to protect its citizens from violence by Palestinian armed groups but, in doing so, it must comply with international law,” said Pillay.

“Hamas and Palestinian armed groups must also comply with international law.”

Pillay’s Commission found that the immense numbers of civilian casualties in Gaza and the widespread destruction of civilian objects and infrastructure were the inevitable result of an intentional strategy to cause maximum damage.

The UN Commissioner said they disregarded the legal obligations of distinction, proportionality and adequate precautions.

“Israel also forcibly transferred almost the entire population into small enclosures that are unsafe and uninhabitable,” said Pillay.

“The deliberate use of heavy weapons with large destructive capacity in densely-populated areas constitutes an intentional and direct attack on the civilian population.”

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