Following up on its July 23 vote for a war crimes inquiry, the Human Rights Council appointed the Canadian law professor William Schabas to head the panel, joined by the Senegalese UN human rights expert Doudou Diene and Amal Alamuddin, a British-Lebanese lawyer engaged to the Hollywood actor George Clooney.
The commission will report back to the 47-member human rights body in March after investigating possible violations.
The team will investigate "all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law ... in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014," according to the UN.
Israel's month-long assault claimed the lives of 1,900 people, 75 percent of them civilians, according to the UN, including nearly 500 children, with close to 10,000 Palestinians wounded. About a quarter of Gaza's 1.8 million people have sought refuge in shelters or with host families.
Ground combat within Gaza left 64 Israeli soldiers dead. Three civilians within Israel died as a result of rockets fired from Gaza by militants.
Pillay: Both sides accountable
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has said world powers should hold both sides accountable for possible war crimes. Israel had attacked homes, schools, hospitals, Gaza's only power plant and UN premises in apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions, said Pillay, a former war crimes judge.
Pillay added that militants allied with the Palestinian political faction Hamas had violated international humanitarian law by firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel.
The pro-Israel group UN Watch called for Schabas to recuse himself, citing statements critical of Israeli leaders previously made by the human rights scholar who served on the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission after that country's civil war ended in 2002.
'Inject some Hollywood'
The group's executive director, Hillel Neuer, also questioned whether the UN had "tried to inject some Hollywood publicity into the process" by appointing Alamuddin, despite her proven background in human rights.
Alamuddin has served as an adviser to the prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, assisted the judge during the Hague trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, aided Kofi Annan as he attempted to mediate Syria's conflict, and helped draw up a UN report on armed drones.
Her clients have included WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the Ukrainian opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko.
mkg/ipj (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)