A Special UN report compiled by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees, has found that at least 44 Palestinians were killed by "Israeli actions" while sheltering at seven UN schools during last summer's war in Gaza. The enquiry gives evidence of instances of Israeli forces firing mortar shells and missiles at several UN girl's schools; a charge Israel had previously denied. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, himself went on record to term these actions “unacceptable” and stressed that UN facilities are “inviolable”. Will such a credible inquiry, backed by the statements of the highest UN office help in securing relief for the Palestinians in Gaza and West bank is another question. Considering past record, the cause does not look too hopeful, but Palestine’s recent decision to sign the Rome treaty and become a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), may be able to change that.

Several previous reports have levelled serious accusation on the Israeli forces for committing human right violations, the most notable of which the Human Rights Councils fact finding mission report in 2009; which provided evidence of gross violations. Yet the UN had always found itself hamstrung when following up these reports –its own enforcement mechanisms are weak and rely on state cooperation, while the Security Council is held hostage by the veto. The ICC may be the institution that breaks the deadlock. It operates independently of the UN, and its mandate is also different; prosecution crimes against humanity instead of maintaining international stability. Therefore it is more likely to pursue Israeli atrocities and their new Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has already shown willingness to do so. The fact that Palestine is going ahead with the ICC prosecution – which had been previously been used as a bargaining chip – that might implicate Hamas members too shows their determination to ‘internationalize’ the issue. An ICC prosecution may yet be far off but this UN report will help speed up the process.