Israel received a preliminary summary of the UN Report on the IDF actions relative to UN facilities in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge last summer. This Report was submitted to UN Secty Gen Ban-ki Moon for his information, it is at this stage only an information source. The writers investigated only 7 incidents involving UN facilities and found that in 3 cases Hamas fighters shot from their facilities while they were full of sheltering civilians, thus justifying IDF counter-action. These could be regarded as Hamas “war crimes.” In several other cases they confirmed that Hamas used UN facilities for storage of weapons, including missiles. The Secty Gen deplored these acts of Hamas. In general, the Report found no basis for accusing the IDF of war crimes in Gaza. However, it should be emphasized that this was a preliminary Report and a fuller more extensive Report is due later this year.
This Report from the Secty Gen of the UN should not be confused with the Report due from the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHCR), that is expected to be more general and far more more critical of Israeli actions. However, while this Committee was being Chaired by William Schabas, who was known to be very anti-Israel, he was forced to resign from the position when Israel was able to provide proof that he had received payment as a professional advisor to the PLO. His replacement, Mary McGowan Davis, is considered more balanced than her predecessor. This UNHCR Report has been delayed from March until June. If only other military actions, such as those of the US and British in Iraq or the Russians in Ukraine, could be so extensively investigated.
Meanwhile the IDF’s own investigations into Operation Protective Edge in Gaza continue slowly but efficiently. Because the IDF is investigating its own possible offences in a judicial and thoroughly professional manner, the Secty Gen’s UN Report did not go into those specific incidents. In one incident undergoing criminal investigation that is likely to result in indictments of IDF personnel an UNRWA school was attacked and 12 people were killed. But, the IDF claims and the UN acknowledges that the IDF did drop warnings to the people in the area and Hamas operatives were firing from nearby. How these trials will play out is difficult to predict. While the UN Secty Gen’s Report takes the IDF’s legal processes into account, the UNHCR’s Report may not. Nevertheless, it seems that by taking its own actions the IDF may have blunted some of the prior media criticism, and the outcome of the Gaza war may not result in more than a few so-called “war-crimes” accusations, far fewer than originally predicted. There are certainly very few armed forces in the world that maintain such rigor and accountability as those of Israel. Other countries that criticize Israel should take note.