UN: Gaza killings by Israel amount to 'war crime'

By Fatih Erel

GENEVA (AA) – The use of force against Palestinian protesters by Israel amounts to a "war crime" under the Statute of Rome, said the UN rapporteur on Palestine on Friday.

The remarks came in Geneva, at a UN Human Rights Council special session on the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

Speaking to the session via video recording, Michael Lynk, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestine, said: "I must point out that the 'willful killing' and the 'willful causing of great suffering or serious injury to body or health' of civilians is both a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime under the Rome Statute."

"The Gazan demonstrations have been almost entirely unarmed and non-violent. Thousands and thousands marching, singing, protesting against their conditions, and demanding the right to a better future," Lynk said.

"Yes, some threw Molotov cocktails, or flew burning kites, or rushed the wire fences at the Gaza frontier. But the overwhelming majority have been committed to non-violence over the past seven weeks, armed only with the oldest and most human of aspirations: to live free in one’s own land," he added.

According to the UN, over the past seven weeks, over 100 Palestinian demonstrators have died at the hands of the Israeli military. Among the dead are children, journalists, medics, and many young unemployed men. Approximately, 12,000 have been injured.

"I note that the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has issued a caution regarding the violence against civilians in Gaza last month," Lynk said.

-'No threat to life or serious injury'

An attempt to approach the fence, to damage the fence, or even to cross the fence, by an unarmed individual faced with heavily armed soldiers would not constitute a threat to life or serious injury that would justify the use of lethal force, he said.

"Similarly, stones, or even Molotov cocktails, thrown at significant distances towards well-protected and heavily armed security forces behind defensive positions, would not rise to the level of threat necessary to justify use of lethal force," he said.

"l call upon the international community, through the United Nations, to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the killings and injuries that have occurred in the context of these demonstrations since March 30," he said.

On Monday, at least 62 Palestinian demonstrators were martyred and thousands more injured by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza-Israel fence, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Thousands of Palestinians had gathered on the Gaza Strip’s eastern border to take part in protests marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel — which Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, Arabic for "Catastrophe" — and protest the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.