U.N. envoy calls for investigation into civilian Gaza deaths

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A United Nations envoy called for an investigation into the civilian deaths during the Israel-Gaza conflict and the implementation of the Gaza reconstruction plan.

Makarim Wibisono, who recently took over as the special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, also recommended the lifting of the blockade on Gaza, the halt of the mistreatment of Palestinian children in the custody of Israeli authorities and a halt to Israel’s policy of demolishing the homes of suspected Palestinian terrorists, as part of his report submitted this week to the Human Rights Council.

Wibisono in the recommendations section of the report called on Israel to: “Conduct prompt, thorough, effective, independent, impartial and transparent investigations into all alleged incidents of killing of civilians during the hostilities, and make public the findings and any steps taken regarding accountability.”

“The stark disparity in casualty figures on the two sides … reflects the [skewed] balance of power and the disproportionate cost borne by Palestinian civilians, raising questions as to whether Israel adhered to the international law principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions,” Wibisono said in the report.

The report does not mention the tunnels dug by Hamas from Gaza to Israel, to be used for terror attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers, nor does it address Hamas’ practice of taking up military positions in civilian neighborhoods. It also reports that “thousands of indiscriminate rockets were reportedly fired by Palestinian armed groups from Gaza.”
Wibisono was denied entry by Israel into Gaza to research the report. His findings were based on interviews conducted with witnesses and victims in Amman and Cairo as well as video calls with victims in the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Maan news agency.

According to Wibisono, 2,256 Palestinians were killed during the July-August conflict, of whom 1,563 were civilians including 538 children, while 66 Israeli soldiers and five civilians died.

“Voices from across the Occupied Palestinian Territory called in unison for accountability, an end to the blockade and an end to the occupation. If another round of deadly violence is to be avoided, the underlying problems perpetuating the conflict and the almost daily violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people must be addressed and those responsible brought to justice,” Wibisono said in his conclusions.