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Israel committed crimes against humanity in Gaza, including extermination, UN probe finds

An independent United Nations investigation concluded Wednesday that Israel had committed crimes against humanity during the war in Gaza, including the crime of "extermination".

"The crimes against humanity of extermination; murder; gender persecution targeting Palestinian men and boys; forcible transfer; and torture and inhuman and cruel treatment were committed," the Commission of Inquiry (COI) said in a report, due to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council next week.

The findings were from two parallel reports, one focusing on the 7 October Hamas-led attack and another on Israel's war on Gaza, published by the COI, which has an unusually broad mandate to collect evidence and identify perpetrators of international crimes committed in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The reports, which cover the conflict through to end-December, found that both Israel and Palestinian armed group committed war crimes including torture; murder or wilful killing; outrages upon personal dignity; and inhuman or cruel treatment.

Israel also committed additional war crimes including starvation as a method of warfare, it said, saying Israel not only failed to provide essential supplies like food, water, shelter and medicine to Palestinians but "acted to prevent the supply of those necessities by anyone else".

Some of the war crimes such as murder also constituted crimes against humanity by Israel, the COI statement said, using a term reserved for the most serious international crimes knowingly committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilians.

"The immense numbers of civilian casualties in Gaza and widespread destruction of civilian objects and infrastructure were the inevitable result of a strategy undertaken with intent to cause maximum damage, disregarding the principles of distinction, proportionality and adequate precautions," the COI statement said.

Israel does not cooperate with the commission, which it says has an anti-Israel bias. The COI says Israel obstructs its work and prevented investigators from accessing both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel condemned the report and accused the commission of "systematic anti-Israeli discrimination".

The COI "has once again proven that its actions are all in the service of a narrow-led political agenda against Israel," said Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

Hamas did not immediately comment.

Reporting by AFP and Reuters