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A United Nations commission investigating the October 7 attacks on Israel and the resulting conflict in Gaza accused both Palestinian armed groups and Israel of committing war crimes, and the commission said Israel’s conduct of the war included crimes against humanity.

In a report released on Wednesday, the three-person commission – led by Navi Pillay, a former UN human rights chief – provided the UN’s most detailed examination yet of the events since 7 October. The report itself does not entail any sanctions. , but presents a legal analysis of actions in the Gaza conflict that is likely to be evaluated by the International Court of Justice and other international criminal proceedings. Israel did not cooperate with the investigation and protested the commission’s assessment of its behavior, the commission said.

The report said the military wing of Hamas and six other Palestinian armed groups – aided in some cases by Palestinian civilians – killed and tortured people during the October 7 assault on Israel, in which more than 800 civilians were among the more than 1,200 killed. According to the report, another 252 people were taken hostage, including 36 children.

“Many abductions were carried out with significant physical, mental and sexual violence and degrading and humiliating treatment, including in some cases denunciation of the abductees,” the report said. “Women and women’s bodies were used as victory trophies by men who committed violence.”

The commission also examined allegations by Israeli journalists and authorities that Palestinian militants had committed rapes, but said it was “unable to independently verify these allegations” because Israel did not cooperate with the investigation. The report cites “lack of access to victims, witnesses and locations of the crime and obstruction of the investigation by Israeli authorities.”

Hamas has rejected all allegations that its forces are involved in sexual violence against Israeli women, the commission noted.

The site of a music festival was attacked on October 7. The UN report said Palestinian armed groups killed and tortured people during assaults that day.Credit…Sergei Ponomarev for the New York Times

The commission also cited significant evidence of desecration of corpses, including sexual desecrations, decapitations, lacerations, burnings, and severing of body parts.

But Israel, during its months-long campaign in Gaza to oust Hamas, also committed war crimes, the commission said, such as using starvation as a weapon of war through a total siege of Gaza.

He stated that Israel’s use of heavy weapons in densely populated areas amounts to a direct attack against the civilian population and has the essential elements of a crime against humanity, ignoring the need to distinguish between combatants and civilians and causing a disproportionately high number of civilian casualties. especially among women and children.

The conflict has killed or maimed tens of thousands of Palestinian children, a number and rate of casualties “unprecedented in any conflict in recent decades,” the commission said.

Other crimes against humanity committed by Israel in Gaza, the commission said, include “extermination, murder, gender-based persecution of Palestinian men and boys, forced population transfer, torture and cruel and inhuman treatment.”

The committee said Israeli forces used sexual and gender-based violence, including forced nudity and sexual humiliation, as “operating procedure” against Palestinians during forced evacuations and detentions. “Both male and female victims were subjected to such sexual violence,” the report states, “but men and boys were targeted in particular ways.”

“The treatment of men and boys was intentionally sexualized as an act of retaliation for the attack,” he added, referring to October 7.

Palestinian children injured on Sunday at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip. The UN report said Israel’s use of heavy weapons in densely populated areas caused a disproportionately high number of civilian casualties.Credit…Abed Khaled/Reuters

In a statement responding to the report, Israel’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva denounced what it called “systematic anti-Israeli discrimination.” He said the commission ignored Hamas’ use of human shields and sought “outrageously and repugnantly” to draw a false equivalence between Hamas and the Israeli army in relation to sexual violence.

The commission – which includes Chris Sidoti, an Australian expert on human rights law, and Miloon Kothari, an Indian expert on human rights and social policy – ​​said Israel had refused to cooperate with its investigation and denied the group access to Israel, Gaza and the West Bank territory. Israel also did not respond to six requests for information, the commission said.

The team based its findings on interviews with survivors and witnesses conducted remotely and in person during visits to Turkey and Egypt. It also relied on satellite imagery, forensic medical records and open source data, including photographs and videos shot by Israeli troops and shared on social media.

The commission said it had identified those most responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity, including senior members of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups and senior members of Israel’s political and military leadership, including members of its war cabinet . The commission said it will continue its investigations focusing on those with individual criminal responsibility and command or higher responsibility.

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