UN Human Rights Council decides to urgently dispatch experts to probe Israel’s killing of Palestinians in Gaza.

Michael Lynk, UN rights expert, said Israel's use of force may amount to a war crime [Fabrice Coffrini/ AFP]

Michael Lynk, UN rights expert, said Israel’s use of force may amount to a war crime [Fabrice Coffrini/ AFP]

The United Nations’ top human rights body has voted to send a team of international war crimes investigators to probe the deadly shootings of Gaza protesters by Israeli forces.

A resolution calling on the UN Human Rights Council to “urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry” was backed on Friday by 29 members.

The United States and Australia opposed the move, and 14 abstained in the vote

Investigators must “investigate all alleged violations and abuses… in the context of the military assaults on large scale civilian protests that began on 30 March 2018”, the approved resolution said.

Earlier on Friday, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN human rights chief, had backed calls for an international probe.

He slammed Israel’s response to the mass protests along the Gaza border as “wholly disproportionate”.

Israel was an occupying power and under international law, it was obliged to protect the people of Gaza and ensure their welfare, he said. But instead Gaza residents were “caged in a toxic slum from birth to death”, he said.

He pointed out that while at least 60 Palestinians were killed and thousands injured in a single day of protests on Monday, “on the Israeli side, one soldier was reportedly wounded, slightly, by a stone”.

“There is little evidence of any attempt to minimise casualties on Monday,” said Zeid.

‘War crime’

Speaking to the session via a video recording, Michael Lynk, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestine, said Israel’s use of force may amount to “a war crime”.

Since protests began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed 106 Palestinians, including 15 children. More than 12,000 were injured, at least 3,500 by live ammunition.

Hundreds of protesters continued to rally on the Gaza-Israel border on Friday [Mohammed Abed/ AFP]

Israel has defended the killing of protesters, saying it was acting in self-defence to protect its borders and communities. Both Israel and theUnited Statessaid Hamas, which rules Gaza, instigated the violence, an allegation the group denies.

The Israeli foreign ministry said it rejected the Council’s decision, saying the body was “dominated by hypocrisy and absurdity”.

Earlier in the day. Aviva Raz Shechter, Israeli ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said Hamas was the one committing war crimes, and said the resolution was “void of any sense, and deserves nothing less than being torn apart”.

Theodore Allegra, the US representative, also lamented the council’s “biased focus on Israel”, charging that the resolution had a “one-sided focus, without any call for investigation of Hamas”.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, said Palestinians “no not believe they can rely on the US to put any pressure on Israel, so they are turning to international institutions for help.

“They hope an investigation or a fact finding mission will expose Israel’s tactics in Gaza to more international scrutiny,” he added.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters continued to rally at the Israel-Gaza border on Friday.

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from the protest site, described the atmosphere there was calmer than in recent weeks.

“Protesters burned the tires, some of them tried to hurl stones, but we haven’t seen the tensions we have seen in the past few weeks,” she said. “We’ve seen a little bit of tear gas, but there hasn’t been any gun fire”.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies