Israeli forces used “lethal force without justification” when they shot and killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank, violating her “right to life”, according to a new report by a UN-mandated investigative body.
The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Israel “concluded on reasonable grounds that Israeli forces used lethal force without justification under international human rights law”, it said in a report released on Monday.
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Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American and acclaimed correspondent for the Doha-based media network, was shot in the head while covering an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank in May 2022.
“The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin is a direct result of Israel’s militarisation of law enforcement operations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” said Navi Pillay, Chair of the Commission.
“Shireen Abu Akleh is another victim of the excessive and disproportionate force used by Israeli security forces in these operations. This was also an attack against journalists, who were all clearly identifiable, which is a recurring pattern identified by the Commission.”
The UN body recommended that the Israeli government cooperate fully with the United States investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh. It said it would provide the evidence it collected to the International Criminal Court for its investigation into the Situation in the State of Palestine.
The report, which covered the period between May 2021 and August 2023, also found that civilians are paying the highest price amid soaring violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that neither Israeli forces nor armed Palestinian groups are working to avoid civilian casualties.
The report was finished before the current round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the most deadly in years.
“Our report is painful and timely,” said Navi Pillay.
“It emphasises that the only path towards ending violence and achieving sustainable peace is through strict observance of international law throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel. This requires addressing the root causes of the conflict, including the occupation of Palestinian territory, and allowing the Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination.”
The report will be presented before the UN General Assembly on October 24.
The report found that Israel’s prevention of food and medicine to Gaza is in violation of international law and that Israeli policies on Gaza are inseparable from an occupation that it says Israel has “no intention” of ending.
In occupied east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, the commission also detailed what it described as a “distinct hierarchy” of Israeli methods used to dispel demonstrators, with Palestinians in occupied east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank receiving the “harshest and often lethal responses”.
The UN also said that previous instances in which Palestinian groups in Gaza fired rockets towards Israeli population centres were “inherently indiscriminate” and a war crime. The report also found that Israeli attacks on Gaza were “not proportionate to the military advantage” and likewise constituted a war crime.
The commission has said that it is collecting evidence of war crimes committed by Palestinian armed groups such as Hamas and Israeli forces during the current round of fighting.
After hundreds of Hamas fighters from Gaza launched an attack on southern Israel that killed at least 1,400 people and injured thousands more, Israeli forces imposed a “complete siege” on the territory, cutting access to food, water, electricity and fuel in Gaza, and unleashed a campaign of air raids that have levelled entire neighbourhoods. At least 2,808 people have been killed in the bombardment and more than 10,000 others wounded, according to Palestinian officials.
Last week, Israel said that the more than one million residents of northern Gaza must evacuate south before an anticipated Israeli ground invasion, an order the UN called “impossible” and that rights groups have said could amount to forced population transfer, which is a crime against humanity.