The United Nations Human Rights Council agreed on Thursday to launch an international investigation into crimes committed during the 11-day conflict between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
By a vote of 24 states in favor, 9 against, with 14 abstentions, the 47-member forum adopted a resolution brought by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations.
"The draft resolution ... is therefore adopted," Nazhat Shameem Khan, Fiji's ambassador who serves as current president of the Geneva forum, said after an all-day special session.
Those who supported the move: Argentina, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkino Faso, China, Cote D'Ivoire, Cuba, Eritrea, Gabon, Indonesia, Libya, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Pakistan, Philipines, Russia, Senegal, Somalia, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.
Those that opposed it were: Austria, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Czech Republic, Germany, Malawi, Marshal Islands, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.
Those who abstained were: Bahamas, Brazil, Denmark, Fiji, France, India, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Korean, Togo, and Ukraine.
Prime Minister Netanyahu denounced the decision, which he labeled as "shameful".
The premier said the adoption of the resolution is another case of the council's "blatant anti-Israel obsession."
"Once again, an immoral automatic majority at the Council whitewashes a genocidal terrorist organization that deliberately targets Israeli civilians while turning Gaza's civilians into human shields," he wrote on Twitter, referring to Hamas.
The U.S. in response to the said it deeply regretted the decision in the forum, where it has observer status and no vote.
"The action today instead threatens to imperil the progress that has been made," said a statement released by the U.S. mission to the UN in Geneva.
A spokesman for Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, called the group's actions "legitimate resistance" and called for "immediate steps to punish" Israel.
Earlier Thursday, The UN rights chief said that Israeli forces may have committed war crimes during the fighting in Gaza.
She said that Hamas’ indiscriminate rocketing during the conflict was also a clear violation of the rules of war.
The UN high commissioner for human rights spoke to the Human Rights Council, chronicling the “most significant escalation of hostilities since 2014” that left devastation and death in the Gaza Strip before a cease-fire last week.
“Airstrikes in such densely populated areas resulted in a high level of civilian fatalities and injuries, as well as the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure,” she said. “Such strikes raise serious concerns of Israel’s compliance with distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law.”
“Such attacks may constitute war crimes,” she added, if deemed to be indiscriminate and disproportionate in their impact on civilians.
In an apparent allusion to tactics of Hamas, she said it was a violation of international humanitarian law to locate military assess in densely populated civilian areas, or to launch attacks from them.
Hamas “rockets are indiscriminate and fail to distinguish between military and civilian objects, and their use, thereby, constitutes a clear violation of international humanitarian law,” she added. “However, the actions of one party do not absolve the other from its obligations under international law.”
“Unless the root causes of the violence are addressed, it will certainly be a matter of time until the next round of violence commences with further pain and suffering for civilians on all sides, “ she also said.