Israel on Thursday hit back furiously at a UN Human Rights Council's report claiming Israeli soldiers intentionally fired on civilians and could have committed crimes against humanity during a string of crackdowns against Palestinian demonstrators last year in Gaza that left 189 people dead.
The independent Commission of Inquiry mandated by the Human Rights Council said more than 6,000 people were shot by military snipers using live ammunition to repel protesters near the separation fence. The panel showed video of shootings of protesters as it issued a report on the violent March of Return protests the Palestinian launched in March, 2018.
The goverment called the report "hostile, false and biased," while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the report reflected the council's "obsessive hatred" of Israel.
"The UN Human Rights Council is setting new records of hypocrisy and lies stemming from its obsessive hatred toward Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. Hamas is the one firing missiles at Israeli civilians, throwing explosive devices and carrying terrorist activity during demonstrations on the Gaza border," Netanyahu said.
"Israel won’t allow Hamas to violate its sovereignty and hurt its citizens and will preserve its right to defend itself. IDF soldiers will continue defending with determination Israeli communities and civilians from Hamas and other terror organizations funded by Iran, which declares its intention to annihilate Israel," the prime minister added.
Acting Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz echoed Netanyahu's sentiments, saying that the council had "produced another hostile, mendacious and slanted report against the State of Israel ... No one can deny Israel the right to self-defense and the obligation to defend its citizens and borders from violent attacks."
The three-person panel said civilians who did not pose an "imminent threat" were among those killed and injured. It acknowledged significant violence linked to the demonstrations, but said they did not amount to combat campaigns, essentially rejecting an Israeli claim of terror activity by Palestinian armed groups.
Israel dismissed the panel's comments on these Gaza militants as "absurd."
The panel said Israel needed to do more to allow the injured, even today, to gain access to proper medical care, and urged Israel's government to authorize a "meaningful" investigation into the events.
The commission also faulted Hamas, which runs Gaza, for not preventing use of incendiary airborne devices tied to
kites and balloon that scorched swathes of Israeli farmland during the protests.
The report was based on 325 interviews and meetings with victims, witnesses, government officials and members of civil society from all sides, and more than 8,000 documents.
The commission said it heard from 15 contributors from the Israeli side, including non-governmental organizations, but got no cooperation from the Israel government.
The panel said its mandate was to identify those it believed responsible for the violations, and it planned to hand over a confidential file with such information to UN human rights chief Michele Bachelet, who could hand it over the International Criminal Court and national authorities.
The Israeli government has repeatedly lambasted alleged bias against Israel by the 47-member Human Rights Council. The Trump administration pulled the US out of the council last year, citing in part such alleged bias.
Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for discussion at every HRC session, under "Item 7" on the agenda. Item 7 on "Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories" has been part of the council's regular business almost as long as it has existed.