Armed Conflict Foreign Relations & International Law

UN Human Rights Council Releases Report on Israel-Hamas War International Law Violations

Matt Gluck
Wednesday, June 12, 2024, 4:31 PM

The commission finds that Hamas and Israel have committed war crimes; Israel claims “systematic anti-Israeli discrimination.”

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On June 12, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s “Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel” released a report examining “violations of international human rights law (IHRL), international humanitarian law (IHL) and possible international crimes committed by all parties” involved in the attack on Israel and the Gaza conflict from Oct. 7 through Dec. 31, 2023. The commission notes that the report includes certain incidents that occurred after Dec. 31, 2023, “where they were egregious and deemed representative of a trend.”

The commission reports that according to Israeli sources, over 1,200 individuals were killed by members of Hamas, members of Palestinian militant groups, and others through direct ground attacks and by rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza strip. Additionally, the report states that 14,970 people were injured and transported to hospitals for medical treatment as a result of the attacks against Israel, and “[a]t least 252 people were abducted to Gaza as hostages, including 90 women, 36 children, older people and members of Israeli Security Forces (ISF).” According to the commission, as of May 21, 2024, 128 Israeli hostages had been rescued or released, while 128 remained captive—either alive or dead.

The report notes that the commission uncovered evidence showing Palestinian militants’ “mistreatment of civilians and ISF members in several locations, and significant evidence on the desecration of corpses, including sexualized desecration decapitation, lacerations, burning, severing of body parts and undressing.” The commission writes that it “documented cases indicative of sexual violence perpetrated against women and men in and around the Nova festival site, as well as the Nahal Oz military outpost and several kibbutzim, including Kfar Aza, Re’im and Nir Oz.”

With respect to Israeli operations, the commission states that there were many cases in which it “could not identify military targets as the focus of the attacks.” And, the commission writes, “when military targets were allegedly present, attacks lacked distinction, proportionality and precautions.” According to the report, as of May 2024, estimates of the fatalities in Gaza were over 34,000, which included—as of April 30—7,356 children and 5,419 women, according to the Hamas-backed Gaza Ministry of Health. The commission states that Israel has displaced at least 1.7 million Palestinians. 

The commission also reports that Israel has obstructed entry points into Gaza for extended periods, which has fostered massive humanitarian suffering. Since December 2023, according to the commission, over 90 percent of the Gaza population “has faced high acute food insecurity.” The commission also writes that it has gathered evidence of “many incidents in which ISF systematically targeted and subjected Palestinians to [sexual and gender-based violence] online and in person since October 7, including through forced public nudity, forced public stripping, sexualized torture and abuse, and sexual humiliation and harassment.”

The commission finds that members of Hamas, members of other Palestinian armed groups, and Palestinian civilians committed war crimes during the Oct. 7 attack, in addition to “violations and abuses of IHL and IHRL.” The commission also finds that Israel’s operations in Gaza have constituted “war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of IHL and IHRL.” According to the report, Israel did not respond to the commission’s requests for information and access, while the “State of Palestine provided extensive comments.”

Israel’s diplomatic mission to the UN said the report “is reflective of the systematic anti-Israeli discrimination of this Commission of Inquiry.” The Israeli mission also said that the “report outrageously and repugnantly attempts to draw a false equivalence between IDF soldiers and Hamas terrorists with regards to acts of sexual violence.” Hamas has not yet responded to the release of the report.

The UN Human Rights Council has faced extensive criticism for its actions related to Israel. When the U.S. rejoined the council in 2021 after leaving it in 2018, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. would “oppose the Council’s disproportionate attention on Israel, which includes the Council’s only standing agenda item targeting a single country.”

You can read the report here or below.


Matt Gluck is a research fellow at Lawfare. He holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College.

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