The United Nations has named experts to an international commission of inquiry into possible human rights violations and war crimes committed by both sides during Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Israel responded to Monday’s announcement, dismissing the inquiry as a UN Human Rights Council “kangaroo court”.
Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said: “Hamas welcomes the decision to form an investigation committee into the war crimes committed by the occupation ([srael] against Gaza and it urges that it begin work as soon as possible.”
The UN statement said the independent team will investigate “all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law … in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014.”
William Schabas, a Canadian professor of international law, will head the panel whose other members are Doudou Diene, a Senegalese veteran UN human rights expert and Amal Alamuddin, a British-Lebanese lawyer.
Alamuddin later denied she would participate in the inquiry.
“I am honored to have received the offer, but given existing commitments – including eight ongoing cases – unfortunately could not accept this role,” she said in a statement.
The panel is to report by March 2015 to the UN Human Rights Council. Israel, which is not a member to the council, has long accused the 47-member state forum of bias against it.
A month of war, marked by Israeli air strikes on Gaza and rockets fired by Hamas fighters into Israel, has killed 1,938 Palestinians and 67 Israelis while devastating wide tracts of densely populated Gaza.
Defying international law
Navi Pillay, the top UN human rights official, said on July 31 she believed Israel was deliberately defying international law in its military offensive in Gaza and that world powers should hold it accountable for possible war crimes.
Israel has attacked homes, schools, hospitals, Gaza’s only power plant and UN premises in apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions, said Pillay, a former UN war crimes judge.
Hamas fighters in Gaza have violated international humanitarian law by firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel, Pillay said.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed indirect talks mediated by Egypt on Monday on ending the war, Egypt’s state news agency said, after a new 72-hour truce appeared to be holding.