United Nations war crimes investigators called on Israel on Monday to stop its snipers using lethal force against protesters on the border with Gaza, as the anniversary approached of the start of the March of Return demonstrations there last year in which 189 Palestinians were killed.
“The most important thing for the government of Israel is to review the rules of engagement immediately and to ensure that the rules of engagement are according to accepted international law standards,” the commission’s chairman Santiago Canton told the UN Human Rights Council.
Israel has repeatedly lambasted alleged bias against it by the 47-member Human Rights Council. The Jewish state 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.
The Commission of Inquiry said Israel should investigate the shooting of more than 6,000 people. So far, it has announced criminal inquiries into 11 killings.
Israel boycotted the day-long debate, while hundreds of Israel supporters rallied outside the United Nations in Geneva, including senior US officials.
The moment has come to say loud and clear - @UNHumanRights @UN_HRC are complicit to the Hamas terror campaign against Israel,” its foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in a tweet.
The moment has come to say loud and clear - @UNHumanRights @UN_HRC are complicit to the Hamas terror campaign against Israel . Thank you @HillelNeuer @AmbRazShechter @DrDoreGold @RichardGrenell @Ostrov_A and many many more friends of truth and justice for saying this strongly pic.twitter.com/nV9C525eK1— Emmanuel Nahshon (@EmmanuelNahshon) March 18, 2019
Israel last month hit back furiously at the report, which it branded "hostile, false and biased." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the report reflected the HRC'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.
Canton said Israel’s Supreme Court should review the confidential rules governing lethal force after the panel found it had been “in the majority of cases authorized unlawfully.”
“In a situation of crowd control, which is the way we see these demonstrations, rubber bullets could have been used,” Canton told reporters, rather than “high velocity bullets and long-range sniper rifles equipped with sophisticated optical aiming devices.”
Large crowds were expected to mark the anniversary of the start of the Gaza demonstrations on March 30, he said.
The protesters were demanding that Israel ease its blockade of Gaza and recognize their right to return to lands their families lost when Israel was founded in 1948. Both Israel and Egypt have
Israel has said its forces opened fire to protect the border from incursions and attacks by armed militants.
Canton said the independent experts were sending their confidential list of suspected perpetrators to UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, for forwarding to the International Criminal Court, which opened a preliminary examination of alleged Israeli abuses in 2015.
Israel’s main ally, the United States, quit the 47-member UN Human Rights Council last year, also accusing it of an anti-Israel slant.
“To pass resolution after resolution on Israel while frequently ignoring China, Cuba, or Russia, is a horrendous hypocrisy,” US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told the crowd of Israel supporters gathered outside the UN in Geneva.
“Applying one standard to the State of Israel and not applying the same standard to others is anti-Semitic,” he said.
Rarely saw as many people demonstrating on Place des Nations, in front of @UNGeneva! #EnoughIsEnough, it is time to #EndItem7 at the @UNHumanRights Council and stop the bias against #Israel at the #UN. pic.twitter.com/rZxLd1vqpW— Israel in UN/Geneva (@IsraelinGeneva) March 18, 2019
Earlier, a UN human rights investigator said Israel was depriving millions of Palestinians of access to regular clean water supplies and stripping the land of minerals “in an apparent act of pillage”.
UN special rapporteur Michael Lynk said Israel “continues full-steam with settlement expansion” in the West Bank, which the United Nations and many countries deem illegal. There were 20,000-25,000 new settlers a year, he said.
“In his latest farcical report, Mr. Lynk stoops to a new low and (accuses) the Jewish State of stealing,” Israel’s mission in Geneva said in a statement to Reuters, calling Lynk a “known Palestinian advocate.”