Israel obstructing access to Hamas attack victims: UN probe

Israel obstructing access to Hamas attack victims: UN probe
UN officials say that Israel has failed to cooperate and is obstructing efforts to collect evidence from witnesses and victims of the 7 October attack.
3 min read
A UN chief says that Israel is obstructing efforts of investigators to collect evidence and speak to victims of the 7 October attack [Getty]

Israel is preventing UN investigators from speaking to witnesses and victims of the 7 October Hamas-led attack, the former UN rights chief Navi Pillay, who is chairing a three-person probe, said on Tuesday.

The unprecedented Commission of Inquiry was established by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2021 to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

"I deplore the fact that people inside Israel who wish to speak to us are being denied that opportunity because we cannot get access into Israel," Pillay said.

The investigation briefed diplomats at the UN in Geneva on its work and said that since 7 October, it had focused on the war on Gaza.


"So far as the government of Israel is concerned, we have faced not merely a lack of cooperation but active obstruction of our efforts to receive evidence from Israeli witnesses and victims to the events that occurred in southern Israel," said Chris Sidoti, one of the three members of the inquiry.

Israel's war on Gaza started after a Hamas-led attack on 7 October, which Israel alleges resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people. 

Israel estimates that around 250 captives were taken from Israel and that around 129 remain in Gaza. Around 34 of the 129 are presumed to be dead. 

Israel's onslaught of Gaza has killed over 33,800 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly women and children.

Pillay, 82, a South African former High Court judge, said the commission was investigating alleged crimes during the Hamas-led attack as well as some allegedly committed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank.

Missing evidence 

Sidoti, speaking via video-link, said the investigation had found it difficult to collect evidence from large numbers of witnesses.

"I use this opportunity to appeal again both to the government of Israel to cooperate, and to victims and witnesses to the events in southern Israel to contact the commission of inquiry so that we can hear what they have experienced," he said.

Sidoti also said the investigators began collecting digital evidence early on 7 October, some of which has since "disappeared from the internet".

"If it had not been collected on that day, it would not have been able to be collected," the former human rights commissioner of Australia said.

Pillay, who served as a judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and presided over the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, said the commission had shared more than 5,000 documents with the ICC in The Hague, collected between October and December 2023.

The commission is to present its first findings to the Human Rights Council in June.