United Nations investigators reported on Thursday that Israeli forces who fired on Palestinians during the mass demonstrations on the border with Gaza, killing more than 100 people, may have committed war crimes.
The report, by the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry, was delivered in Geneva to Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights. It came after an investigation found that Israeli forces had killed 189 people — including 35 children — and wounded about 9,000 others during the protests that began on March 30 last year.
“The commission has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” said the chairman of the commission, Santiago Canton. “Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”
The gatherings at the Gaza border drew tens of thousands of people on Fridays to spots along the border fence separating Gaza, which is governed by the militant group Hamas, and by Israel.
They were promoted as protests against the economic blockade that has impoverished Gaza, and as a way of demanding that refugees and their descendants be allowed to reclaim property in Israel seven decades after they were expelled or fled at the creation of the Jewish state.
Some of the demonstrators attempted to storm the fence and to open crossings the Israelis had closed. Others rolled burning tires toward the fence, pulled away razor wire laid down by Israel, released flaming kites to fly into Israel or threw rocks at Israeli security forces on the other side of the barrier.
But most of the protesters, including many of the people hit by Israeli gunfire, hung back, hundreds of yards from the fence.