Ex-UN Rights Chief to Head Probe Into Israel, Hamas Alleged War Crimes During May's Fighting

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A Palestinian boy from Zawaraa family walks near their makeshift tent amid the rubble of their houses which were destroyed by Israeli air strikes during the Israeli-Palestinian fighting in Gaza May 23, 2021.
A Palestinian boy from Zawaraa family walks near their makeshift tent amid the rubble of their houses which were destroyed by Israeli air strikes during the Israeli-Palestinian fighting in Gaza May 23Credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ / REUTERS

Former United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay will head an international commission of inquiry into alleged crimes committed during the latest conflict between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza, the UN's Human Rights Council said in a statement on Thursday.

The council agreed in late May to launch the investigation with a broad mandate to probe all alleged violations, not just in Gaza and the West Bank, but also in Israel during hostilities that were halted by a May 21 ceasefire.

At least 250 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel were killed in the fierce fighting, which saw Gaza militants fire rockets towards Israeli cities and Israel carry out airstrikes across the coastal enclave.

Then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, 2014.Credit: Fadel SENNA / AFP

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the council at the time that deadly Israeli strikes on Gaza might constitute war crimes and that Hamas had violated international humanitarian law by firing rockets into Israel.

Israel rejected the resolution adopted by the Geneva forum at an emergency special session and said it would not cooperate.

Pillay, a former South African judge who served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008-2014, will lead the three-person panel also composed of Indian expert Miloon Kothari and Australian expert Chris Sidoti, said the statement issued by the Human Rights Council.

The investigators, who have been tasked with trying to identify those responsible for violations with a view to ensure they are held accountable, are due to present their first report in June 2022.

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