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UN report accuses Israel of 'committing crimes against humanity' in Gaza

Report details ‘war crimes committed by Israel, including murder and starvation’ and alleges sexual violence ‘part of operational pattern’; Hamas accused of war crimes, including sexual violence; Foreign Ministry condemns report as ‘blood libel’

A United Nations-sanctioned commission of inquiry released a new report Wednesday on the "Occupied Palestinian Territory," alleging that "Israeli authorities are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during military operations and attacks in the Gaza Strip since October 7." According to the commission, which was established in May 2021, Israel is also responsible for sexual violence during the war.
Additionally, the commission claimed that Israeli authorities are accountable for using starvation as a war tactic, intentional killings, directing attacks against civilians and civilian targets, forced transfers, torture and inhumane treatment, arbitrary detention and outrages upon personal dignity. Conversely, the commission noted that Palestinian armed groups are also responsible for war crimes committed in Israel.
IDF forces operating in Gaza's Rafah
(Video: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The commission's investigation into the events of October 7 and their aftermath is based on interviews with victims and witnesses, some conducted remotely and others during visits to Turkey and Egypt. The inquiry also involved thousands of items collected from open sources and verified through advanced forensic analysis, hundreds of submissions to a call for evidence, satellite imagery and forensic medical reports.
Israel boycotted the commission and refused to cooperate, citing the backgrounds of the commission's head and members. Consequently, the commission accused Israel of "obstructing investigations and preventing access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory."
The report asserted that "the massive number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip and the extensive destruction of civilian objects and infrastructure are the inevitable results of a strategy deliberately aimed at causing maximum damage, disregarding principles of distinction, proportionality and the provision of adequate precautions."
"The deliberate use of heavy weaponry with large destructive capabilities in densely populated areas constitutes a direct and intentional attack on the civilian population," the report said. It noted that statements by Israeli officials, including those reflecting policies of widespread destruction and civilian casualties, amount to incitement and could constitute serious international crimes.
The commission added that direct and public incitement to genocide is a crime under international law, even when carried out by individuals without direct authority over hostilities. Incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is a severe violation of international human rights law and may constitute an international crime.
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תיעוד פלסטיני ממחנה אלבורייג'
תיעוד פלסטיני ממחנה אלבורייג'
Displaced Palestinian in central Gaza's Bureij refugee camp
Despite Israel issuing hundreds of evacuation orders to people in the northern Gaza Strip and other areas, the commission claimed that "the orders were often inadequate, unclear and contradictory, failing to allow sufficient time for safe evacuation."
Furthermore, the commission added, "evacuation routes and designated safe areas were consistently attacked by Israeli forces." The commission determined that these actions collectively constitute forced transfer.
The commission also concluded that Israel imposed a "total blockade" amounting to collective punishment against the civilian population. It argued that Israeli authorities used the blockade and the supply of essential survival goods as a weapon to achieve strategic and political gains, including cutting off water, food, electricity, fuel and humanitarian aid. "The blockade disproportionately affected pregnant women and people with disabilities, including severe harm to children that led to preventable deaths from starvation, including infants," the report stated.
The report noted that certain forms of sexual and gender-based violence are part of the operational patterns of Israeli security forces. "Due to their frequency, prevalence and severity, these violations, including public stripping and nudity intended to humiliate the entire community and emphasize the subjugation of the occupied people," the report stated.
Regarding the West Bank, the commission claimed that Israeli forces committed acts of sexual violence, torture, inhumane or cruel treatment and outrages upon personal dignity. "These all constitute war crimes," the commission asserted, adding that "the Israeli government and forces permitted, encouraged and incited a campaign of violence by settlers against Palestinian communities in the West Bank."
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מחנה גב'אליה
מחנה גב'אליה
Terror suspects stripped and searched by IDF forces in Jabaliya, Gaza
The commission also addressed Hamas' crimes, stating that during the October 7 attack, the military wing of the terror organization and six other armed groups "are responsible for war crimes including deliberate attacks on civilian targets, intentional killing, torture, inhumane or cruel treatment, destruction or seizure of enemy property, and taking hostages, including children."
Additionally, the commission noted that "the indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets towards Israeli cities and towns, causing civilian deaths and injuries, also constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law."
According to the report, "members of Palestinian armed groups, sometimes assisted by Palestinians in civilian clothing, deliberately killed, injured, tortured, and took hostages, including children, and committed sexual and gender-based violence against civilians and Israeli security personnel, some of whom were no longer participating in hostilities and should not have been targeted."
The commission identified patterns indicative of sexual violence and concluded that these were not isolated incidents but similar events occurring in several locations, primarily against Israeli women.
As part of its recommendations, the commission called on the Israeli government to "implement an immediate ceasefire, end the blockade of Gaza, ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid, and stop harming civilians and civilian infrastructure."
Additionally, it urged Israel to fulfill its legal obligations as mandated by the International Court of Justice orders regarding provisional measures issued on January 26, March 28, and May 24, particularly by allowing the commission access to Gaza to conduct investigations. Furthermore, it recommended that all states party to the Rome Statute fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court.
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ירי רקטות מעזה
ירי רקטות מעזה
Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip
(Photo: Reuters/ Amir Cohen)
The commission also appealed to Palestinian leaders and the de facto authorities in Gaza, urging them to immediately cease all rocket fire toward Israel, release all hostages unconditionally and conduct thorough and impartial investigations, prosecuting individuals suspected of violations, including those committed in Israel from October 7 onwards by members of non-state Palestinian armed groups.
The commission's full report will be presented to the 56th session of the Human Rights Council next Wednesday in Geneva. Two additional detailed reports, providing a breakdown of the findings, will accompany the publication of the main report. The first report outlines the commission's findings regarding the October 7 attack in Israel, while the second report details the findings concerning Israel's military operations and attacks in Gaza up to the end of 2023.
Commission chair Navi Pillay said, "It is essential that all those who committed crimes are held accountable. The only way to stop the recurring cycles of violence, including aggression and retaliatory actions from both sides, is to ensure strict adherence to international law."
She added, "Israel must immediately cease its military actions and attacks in Gaza, including the assault on Rafah, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands more to unsafe areas without basic services and humanitarian aid.
"Hamas and Palestinian armed groups must immediately stop launching rockets and release all hostages. Holding hostages is a war crime," she said.
Pillay served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 to 2014 and was responsible for establishing four inquiry commissions focused solely on Israel. She oversaw the publication of the Goldstone Report, appointed the notorious anti-Israel activist Richard Falk as the special rapporteur on Palestinian issues, and approved the Durban II Conference attended by former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The other members of the commission also have highly questionable backgrounds concerning their work on Israel.
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נאווי פילאי
נאווי פילאי
Navi Pillay
(Photo: Reuters)
In response, the Israeli Embassy to the United Nations in Geneva said, "Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on October 7 during an Israeli holiday. Today, on the holiday of Shavuot, the Pillay inquiry commission chooses to release its latest biased reports, attacking Israel. This decision reflects the systematic anti-Israel discrimination of this inquiry commission, which was born in sin in 2021 while Hamas was raining rockets on Israeli civilians.
"The inquiry commission attempts to justify the heinous terror attack of October 7 by contextualizing it through the Palestinian narrative," the embassy added. "It does not mention decades of terrorism or the ongoing rocket fire over Israeli territory. The reports ignore Hamas's despicable use of human shields and its deliberate strategy of placing civilians in the line of fire. Yet, concerning Israel, the report has no problem blaming it for supposedly failing to protect its population on October 7."
Moreover, the embassy noted, "The report outrageously and repulsively tries to draw a false equivalence between IDF soldiers and Hamas terrorists concerning acts of sexual violence. Israel rejects the vile and immoral accusations leveled against the IDF regarding both its military operation in Gaza and its initial response to Hamas terrorists in Israel. Hamas is a lawless terrorist organization. Israel is a democratic state committed to the rule of law. The IDF operates in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law, and has robust and independent mechanisms to monitor and investigate its actions."
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar, said, "The inquiry commission has once again demonstrated that all its actions serve a narrow political agenda against Israel. Today's reports confirm what we have repeatedly stated: the Pillay Commission will never do justice to the Israeli victims of terror."
The Foreign Ministry condemned the report as "full of false accusations and blood libels against IDF soldiers."
"The report describes a fictional reality where decades of terrorist attacks have disappeared, there are no ongoing rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, and there is no democratic state defending itself against a terror attack. This is yet another example of the low point the organization has reached under UN Secretary-General António Guterres," the ministry said.
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