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U.N. Report Finds Israel, Hamas Possibly Committed War Crimes In Gaza

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now onto a report that says in last year's war between Israel and Hamas, both sides may have committed war crimes. A commission of the U.N. Human Rights Council suggests Israel should've changed tactics to avoid civilian deaths, and it criticizes militants for firing thousands of missiles into Israel. More than 2,100 Gazans and 70 Israelis died. NPR's Emily Harris reports.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Commission chair Mary McGowan Davis was careful to spell out the report's limitations as she released it today in Geneva.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARY MCGOWAN DAVIS: We are not here to deliver a guilty verdict with respect to any party. This is not a judicial process.

HARRIS: Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the report flawed and biased. But Israel's former chief military legal advisor for Gaza, David Benjamin, said this one was better than a previous report by the U.N. Human Rights Council on the 2008 war between Israel and Hamas.

DAVID BENJAMIN: What's refreshing, of course, is the fact that it does criticize Hamas.

HARRIS: The report criticized rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups into Israel as an effort to spread terror. Gaza media today quoted Hamas, saying rockets were targeting the Israeli military. The report also blamed Hamas for killing suspected collaborators, which Hamas has denied. Former Israeli legal advisor, Benjamin, said the report's accusations against the Israeli military, known as the IDF, were sever and unfounded.

BENJAMIN: Sweeping accusations, for example, that the IDF had a policy of attacking residential buildings as such without sufficient justification.

HARRIS: The report said Israel's failure to change tactics even after civilian casualties mounted suggests it did not comply with obligations to take all feasible precautions. In Gaza, Refaat Alareer's brother was killed last summer when his home was hit by an Israeli missile.

REFAAT ALAREER: Palestinians had no choice but to defend themselves.

HARRIS: Alareer co-edited a book - "Gaza Unsilenced" - about the war. He's glad the U.N. is paying attention but wants to see more.

ALAREER: What is more important to me, to a person, to a family seeking justice, to our whole country seeking justice is to take the next steps.

HARRIS: He wants Israel prosecuted at the International Criminal Court. So far, the court has opened a preliminary inquiry of possible war crimes by both Israel and Hamas. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.