The situation in Israel and Palestine continues to be characterized by impunity for human rights abuses and laws-of-war violations, many of them war crimes, that demand this Council’s impartial scrutiny.

Since Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came to office in 2009, Israel has built more than 10,000 homes for settlers in occupied Palestinian territory in violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.  It has also demolished the homes of more than 5,400 Palestinians in the West Bank, typically without any plausible claim of military necessity.

Human Rights Watch documented many unlawful attacks during the hostilities in July and August in Gaza.  These included Israeli attacks that killed nine civilians at a café watching the World Cup, four boys playing on the beach, and dozens of civilians at three schools serving as shelters. Hospitals unlawfully came under attack.  Palestinian armed groups launched rockets and mortars indiscriminately towards Israeli population centers. Israeli, Palestinian and other international rights groups have documented similar attacks. Israeli military probes are ongoing, and Israel has announced an investigation by its State comptroller, but Israel’s history of accountability for violations by its forces is poor.  Hamas has not carried out any investigations.

Most Gaza residents whose homes were destroyed during hostilities are still displaced, and all of Gaza suffers power cuts lasting up to 18 hours per day. Four infants whose family homes were damaged or destroyed died of hypothermia in January. Meanwhile, excessive restrictions on the movement of goods and people, imposed by Israel and Egypt, have trapped most of Gaza’s population inside the territory, limited imports and virtually prevented exports, increasing poverty there.

We encourage the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Gaza to investigate all parties’ conduct of the recent hostilities, document violations, including war crimes; assess whether each party has taken steps to meet its obligations to investigate and fairly prosecute individuals responsible for crimes; and make recommendations with a view to ending impunity for past and future violations.

The divisive nature of this Council’s discussions on Israel and Palestine serve no one, least of all the victims of human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch understands that those who investigate and report on human rights and humanitarian law violations in this fraught region are often criticized from all directions.  A crucial role for the Human Rights Council is to recognize and support the need for independent, impartial investigations and accountability regardless of the victim or perpetrator.