In a report after a year-long inquiry, they called on Israel to explain its “targeting decisions”. This would allow independent assessment of its attacks on the Gaza Strip, which killed 1,462 civilians and destroyed thousands of homes.
The independent investigators, led by American Mary McGowan Davis, condemned executions of alleged Palestinian “collaborators” with Israel, by militants in Gaza, and said these killings appeared to constitute war crimes.
A ceasefire last August ended 50 days of fighting between Gaza militants and Israel. Health officials said 2,100 Palestinians were killed. Israel’s dead numbered 67 soldiers and six civilians.
Israeli air strikes and shelling hammered the densely-populated enclave dominated by the Islamist Hamas movement, destroying homes and schools. Gaza militants fired thousands of rockets and mortar bombs into Israel.
Both sides have denied violating the laws of war. “The commission was able to gather substantial information pointing to serious violations of international humanitarian law, and international human rights law, by Israel and by Palestinian armed groups. In some cases, these violations may amount to war crimes,” the United Nations report said.
“The fact that the (Israeli) political and military leadership did not change its course of action, despite considerable information regarding the massive degree of death and destruction in Gaza, raises questions about potential violations of international humanitarian law by these officials, which may amount to war crimes.”
The report said the onus was on Israel to provide details of how it chose its targets in Gaza, to “allow an independent assessment of the legality of the attacks”.
Palestinians joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) after the war, a move opposed by Israel, and the Hague-based court is examining possible war crimes in the conflict.
William Schabas, who initially headed the U.N. inquiry, quit in February over Israeli accusations of bias, due to consultancy work he had done for the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Schabas was not involved in writing the report, although he took part in the research, UN officials and diplomats said.
Israel issued a report earlier this month arguing its 2014 Gaza offensive was lawful. This was to pre-empt the findings of the UN investigation, which Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu scorned as a waste of time.