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‘Most Thorough Legal Analysis’ Yet Concludes Israel Committing Genocide in Gaza

The University Network for Human Rights report also stresses that other nations are legally obligated to "refrain from recognizing Israel's breaches as legal or taking any actions that may amount to complicity."

A woman at a grave at the Rafah camp in the southern Gaza Strip on April 10, the first day of Eid al-Fitr.,Haitham Imad/European Pressphoto Agency

The University Network for Human Rights on Wednesday released and sent to United Nations offices a 105-page report that it called "the most thorough legal analysis" yet to find "Israel is committing genocide" against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The network partnered with the International Human Rights Clinic at Boston University School of Law, the International Human Rights Clinic at Cornell Law School, the Center for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, and the Lowenstein Human Rights Project at Yale Law School for the analysis, which draws from "a diverse range of credible sources" and the territory's history.

"After reviewing the facts established by independent human rights monitors, journalists, and United Nations agencies, we conclude that Israel's actions in and regarding Gaza since October 7, 2023, violate the Genocide Convention," the report states. "Israel has committed genocidal acts of killing, causing serious harm to, and inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of Palestinians in Gaza, a protected group that forms a substantial part of the Palestinian people."

As of May 1, Israel's assault had killed "more than 5% of Gaza's population, with over 2% of Gaza's children killed or injured," the analysis notes. In recent days, Israeli forces have ramped up their attack on Rafah—where over a million people from other parts of the besieged enclave sought refuge—and the total death toll has risen to 35,233, according to Gaza health officials, with another 79,141 Palestinians injured.

"Israel's military operation has destroyed up to 70% of homes in Gaza, and has decimated civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, universities, U.N. facilities, and cultural and religious heritage sites," the document says, noting the "staggering" number of forced displacements. "Civilians in Gaza face catastrophic levels of hunger and deprivation due to Israel's restriction on, and failure to ensure adequate access to, basic essentials of life, including food, water, medicine, and fuel."

"Israel's genocidal acts in Gaza have been motivated by the requisite genocidal intent, as evidenced in this report by the statements of Israeli leaders, the character of the state and its military forces' conduct against and relating to Palestinians in Gaza, and the direct nexus between them," the publication continues, pointing to comments from "officials at all levels of Israeli government, up to and including" Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has faced mounting allegations of genocide since launching its retaliation for the Hamas-led October 7 attack—including an ongoing South Africa-led case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which found in January that the country is "plausibly" committing genocide.

Bolstering the ICJ's conclusion, the Wednesday report declares that "Israel's violations of the international legal prohibition of genocide amount to grave breaches of peremptory norms of international law that must cease immediately."

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"These violations give rise to obligations by all other states: to refrain from recognizing Israel’s breaches as legal or taking any actions that may amount to complicity in these breaches; and to take positive steps to suppress, prevent, and punish the commission by Israel of further genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza," the document adds.

The United States has long provided Israel with billions of dollars in military aid and diplomatic support—which have soared since October 7, despite growing pressure on U.S. President Joe Biden to cut off such assistance. The Democrat has incrementally increased his criticism of the Israeli assault in recent weeks, angering far-right leaders in both countries.

The new legal analysis—which was sent to the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel—came on the same day that 20 human rights groups issued a joint statement.

The rights organizations—including Amnesty International, Mercy Corps, and Oxfam—called on world leaders "to urgently act in bringing to an end, and pursue accountability for," Israel's grave breaches of international humanitarian law in Gaza.

Both documents were released on Nakba Day, which commemorates the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Some experts and campaigners contend that the Nakba—Arabic for catastrophe—continues today.

Jessica Corbett is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams.