Palestinian demonstrators protest under tear gas canisters fired by Israeli forces during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Rafah, southern Gaza this month. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry accused Israel Thursday of intentionally firing on children, journalists, medical personnel and other unarmed civilians during protests in Gaza last year.
The commission was asked by the U.N.'s Human Rights Council to investigate all international abuse violations during Gaza Strip protests between May and December 2018.
The commission's report said Israeli security forces injured more than 6,100 Palestinians with live ammunition, killing 183. It added that 35 deaths included children, three medics and two journalists.
The report said another 3,100 were injured by bullet fragments, rubber bullets or tear gas canisters. In contrast, one Israeli soldier was killed and four were hurt during the demonstrations, it said.
"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," commission chair Santiago Canton said.
"Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel."
The commission conducted more than 300 interviews and reviewed more than 8,000 documents related to the demonstrations before issuing the report.
Israeli officials rejected the council's findings, saying it ignored the country's right to protect its people from attacks.
"[The commission] produced another hostile report, false and biased against Israel," foreign minister Yisrael Katz, said of the findings, Haaretz reported. "Its entire goal is to defame the only democracy in the Middle East and its right to defend itself against the terrorism of a murderous organization."
Sara Hossain of Bangladesh, one of the panel's three investigators, said Israeli forces were in no danger when they fired on the crowds.
"There can be no justification for killing and injuring journalists, medics and persons who pose no imminent threat of death or serious injury to those around them," Hossain said. "Particularly alarming is the targeting of children and persons with disabilities."
Anne Herzberg, legal adviser of an Israeli-based agency that follows international non-governmental organizations, also criticized the report.
"The U.N. Human Rights Council, dominated by dictators and rights abusers, has issued yet another absurd report whitewashing Hamas terrorism while condemning Israel for protecting its citizens. It is laughable that the U.N. treats cross-border violence as the same as a domestic policing situation, she said.