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UN-mandated rights inquiry rebukes Israel

An independent commission of inquiry set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council after the 2021 Gaza war says Israel must do more than end the occupation of land Palestinians want for a state.

Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs called the newly-released report “a waste of money and effort” that amounted to a witch hunt.

Israel boycotted the inquiry, accusing it of bias and barred entry to its investigators.

While prompted by the 11-day May 2021 conflict in which 250 Gaza Palestinians and 13 people in Israel died, the inquiry mandate includes alleged human rights abuses before and after that and seeks to investigate the “root causes” of the tensions.

It cites evidence saying Israel has “no intention of ending the occupation” and is pursuing “complete control” over what it calls the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem, which was taken by Israel in a 1967 war.

“What has become a situation of perpetual occupation was cited by Palestinian and Israeli stakeholders to the commission as the one common issue” that amounts to the “underlying root cause” of recurrent tensions, instability and protracted conflict, the authors wrote.

They said “impunity” for perpetrators of violence was feeding resentment among Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.

“Ending the occupation alone will not be sufficient,” the report says, urging additional action to ensure the equal enjoyment of human rights.

Citing an Israeli law denying naturalisation to Palestinians married to Israelis, the report accuses the country of affording “different civil status, rights and legal protection” for Arab minorities.

Israel says such measures safeguard national security and the country’s Jewish character.

The Israel ministry added: “It is a biased and one-sided report tainted with hatred for the State of Israel and based on a long series of previous one-sided and biased reports.”

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but, with the help of Egypt, clamps down on the borders of the enclave now governed by Hamas Islamists.

Palestinian authorities have limited self-rule in the West Bank, which is dotted with Israeli settlements.

Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, opened the May 2021 war with rocket attacks following moves to evict Palestinian families in east Jerusalem, and in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.

The Gaza fighting was accompanied by rare street violence within Israel between Jewish and Arab citizens.

Hamas welcomed the report and urged the prosecution of Israeli leaders in what it said were “crimes” against the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian Authority also praised the report and called for accountability “in a manner that puts an end to Israel’s impunity”.

The report will be discussed at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council next week.

The body cannot make legally binding decisions.

The United States quit the Council in 2018 over what it described as its “chronic bias” against Israel and only fully rejoined this year.

Unusually, the three-member commission of inquiry has an open-ended mandate.

A diplomat said that its mandate was already a sensitive issue.

“People don’t like the idea of perpetuity,” he said.

Its members are from India, South Africa and Australia.

with reporting from AP

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