United Nations rights experts warned Friday that killings by alleged undercover Israeli agents in a West Bank hospital last week could constitute war crimes and urging an investigation.
Israel’s “apparent extrajudicial killings” of three Palestinian men in a hospital in the northern city of Jenin on January 29 may amount to “grave violations” of international law, five independent experts said in a statement.
The Israeli military has said forces entered the Ibn Sina Hospital to target a “Hamas terrorist cell”.
Closed-circuit television footage tweeted by the Palestinian foreign ministry and said to be from the hospital shows armed men and women, disguised in medical uniforms or civilian clothes, moving through its corridors.
The video shows the Israeli agents using a baby carrier and a wheelchair as props.
The experts said that Israeli forces entered a rehabilitation ward and shot dead Basel Ayman Ghazawi, a patient being treated for serious injuries from an Israeli air strike three months ago, his brother Muhammad Ayman Ghazawi and another visitor Muhammad Jalamnah.
The experts, who are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but do not speak on behalf of the United Nations, insisted that Israel was required to abide by international law regardless of whether its claims the men were “terrorists” was true.
“In occupied territory under Israeli control, outside active hostilities, … (Israeli forces) could only use force if strictly necessary to prevent an imminent threat to life or serious injury,” they said.
In particular, they said, “killing a defenceless injured patient who is being treated in a hospital amounts to a war crime”.
The experts, including the special rapporteurs on the rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and on extrajudicial executions, suggested that by disguising themselves as seemingly harmless and protected medical personnel and civilians, Israeli forces had also committed the war crime of perfidy.
“We call on Israel to conduct an effective investigation,” the experts said, urging it to also create “procedures to prevent future arbitrary killings and provide reparations to the victims”.
If Israel fails to do so, the experts said they would call on the International Criminal Court prosecutor to investigate the case.
They highlighted the “alarming increase in Palestinians killed by Israeli forces” in the West Bank since Israel’s war against Hamas erupted more than four months ago.