- Sara Hossainmember of the U.N. independent commission that led the Gaza investigation.
A United Nations inquiry has found Israeli forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by targeting unarmed children, journalists and the disabled in Gaza. The report, released by the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday, looked at Israel’s bloody response to weekly Great March of Return demonstrations, launched by Palestinians in Gaza nearly a year ago, targeting Israel’s heavily militarized separation barrier. The report found Israeli forces have killed 183 Palestinians—almost all of them with live ammunition. The dead included 35 children. Twenty-three thousand people were injured, including over 6,000 shot by live ammunition. We speak with Sara Hossain, a member of the U.N. independent commission that led the Gaza investigation.
AMY GOODMAN: A United Nations inquiry has found Israeli forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by targeting unarmed children, journalists and the disabled in Gaza. The report, released by the U.N. Human Rights Council Thursday, looked at Israel’s bloody response to weekly Great March of Return demonstrations, launched by Palestinians in Gaza nearly a year ago, targeting Israel’s heavily militarized separation barrier. The report found Israeli forces have killed 183 Palestinians, almost all of them with live ammunition. The dead included 35 children. Twenty-three thousand people were injured, including over 6,000 shot by live ammunition. Santiago Canton chaired the U.N. commission.
SANTIAGO CANTON: The commission has found reasonable grounds to believe that the Israeli security forces committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. These violations clearly warrant criminal investigation and prosecution, and we call on Israel to conduct meaningful investigations into these serious violations and to provide timely justice and reparations for those killed and injured.
AMY GOODMAN: Another member of the U.N. independent commission, Sara Hossain, described how Israeli forces targeted civilians and journalists in Gaza.
SARA HOSSAIN: We are saying that they have intentionally shot children, they have intentionally shot people with disabilities, they have intentionally shot journalists, knowing them to be children, people with disabilities and journalists. And some of the children—not all of the children are visibly children perhaps, but many of them are. As Commissioner Murungi just said, the journalists were all marked with press vests, that we investigated. And the people with disabilities, as I said, a double amputee in a wheelchair, a person using crutches, they were visibly that. And they’ve been shot at by snipers, who also have spotters available with them, who have very high-level technology available to see who is out there in the field.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.N. report called on nations to arrest, quote, “persons alleged to have committed, or ordered to have committed, the international crimes,” unquote, or to seek their extradition. The U.N. also demanded Israel immediately lift the blockade on Gaza. Israel’s acting foreign minister dismissed the report as “theater of the absurd.” However, grieving Palestinians welcomed the report, including Raeda Ayoub, whose teenage son Mohammad was killed during the Gaza protests.
RAEDA AYOUB: [translated] We are happy that someone is supporting Gaza’s children, and we are happy that they are supporting us to defend Gaza’s children and youth in Gaza against the crimes committed by the occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.N. report was issued Thursday, the same day Israel’s attorney general announced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing an indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
For more, we’re joined by two guests. Sara Hossain is a member of the U.N. independent commission that led the Gaza investigation. She’s also a barrister practicing in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. She joins us from Dhaka, Bangladesh. And here in New York, scholar Norman Finkelstein, author of many books, including Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Sara Hossain, let’s begin with you. Tell us about the most significant findings of your report and how this report came into being.
SARA HOSSAIN: I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear that.
AMY GOODMAN: Please explain the findings of the report.
SARA HOSSAIN: Sure. I mean, this report was commissioned as basis of a resolution by the Human Rights Council. And accordingly, we’ve conducted investigations for about six months now with trained investigators and a team of experts. I should mention, we haven’t been given access to Gaza or to Israel, which obviously has hampered us quite considerably. But nevertheless, we have been able to interview witnesses, and we have been able to interview many victims, as well, some in person and some remotely. We’ve also been able to gather an extraordinary amount of documentary material, including video and drone footage, social media content, as well as all of the affidavits and other testimonies. So, based on that, we’ve come to our assessment.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the most significant findings.
SARA HOSSAIN: The most significant, I think, is just the number of killings and the numbers of injuries. There are 183 Palestinians who have been killed in the course of the period that we have investigated, which is from the 30th of March to the 31st of December. As you know, the demonstrations are continuing, and killings and injuries have continued to be reported, but we’ve just covered this particular period. We also found, as you said, over 6,000 injuries to Palestinians caused by live fire. We found that four Israeli soldiers had been injured during this time, and two Israeli soldiers had also been killed, but both of those were outside the particular parameters of the investigation. They weren’t in the context of—they weren’t at the protest sites, although one of them was within the protest times. And I think, amongst the numbers of killings, what we also found, which was of great concern, was the fact that protected—groups who are protected categories in international law, protected persons, such as children, people with disabilities, and also health workers and journalists, were amongst those who were both killed and injured in large numbers.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.N. report calls on states to arrest “persons alleged to have committed, or ordered to have committed, the international crimes.” What exactly does that mean?
SARA HOSSAIN: Well, our investigation is done according to the standard of reasonable grounds to believe. It’s not a criminal investigation. We have made some preliminary findings based on the facts as we found them, and applying international human rights law and international humanitarian law where that was relevant, given that we’re speaking about the context of an occupation and the context—in certain contexts, the conduct of hostilities. So we’ve made these findings, but we believe that these need to be taken further. We’ve called on Israel itself to conduct investigations, and we understand that Israel has opened at least five investigations into the incidents that we’ve found. But we are not clear why it has not opened a larger number of investigations. We think that’s the first thing that should happen. We’ve also asked for the international community to look into this. We are going to present our findings, hand them over to the high commissioner for human rights of the United Nations. And I think then it’s for other bodies to take this further. As—
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to acting Israeli foreign minister—
SARA HOSSAIN: —you know, there’s a process at the International Criminal Court.