Australian on Israel, Hamas probe panel

Chris Sidoti will be part of a UN probe into alleged crimes during the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Chris Sidoti will be part of a UN probe into alleged crimes during the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Former United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay will head an international commission of inquiry into alleged crimes committed during the latest conflict between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza, the UN's Human Rights Council says.

The council agreed in late May to open the investigation with a broad mandate to cover allegations not just in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank but also in Israel during hostilities that were halted by a May 21 ceasefire.

At least 250 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel were killed in the fierce fighting, in which Gaza militants fired rockets towards Israeli cities and Israel carried out air strikes across the coastal enclave.

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the council at the time that deadly Israeli strikes on Gaza might constitute war crimes and that Hamas had violated international humanitarian law by firing rockets into Israel.

Israel on Thursday reiterated its rejection of the probe.

"Not surprisingly, the purpose of this mechanism is to find Israeli violations while whitewashing the crimes committed by Hamas, a terrorist organisation in the Gaza Strip," Israel's mission to the UN in Geneva said in a statement.

"As Israel announced immediately following the special session, it cannot and will not cooperate with such an investigation," it said.

Pillay, a former South African judge who served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008-2014, will lead the three-person panel also composed of Indian expert Miloon Kothari and Australian expert Chris Sidoti, the Human Rights Council statement said.

The investigators, who have been asked to try to identify those responsible for violations with a view to ensure they are held accountable, are due to present their first report in June 2022.

Australian Associated Press