Israeli army targeted civilians, rules UN report
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In a number of incidents “too numerous to list” the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) “recklessly and intentionally” put Palestinian children, civilians and aid workers in danger during their 22-day onslaught on Gaza, that is the scathing verdict of a 43-paged UN report.

The UN Secretary General also accused Israel of lying about attacks on UN schools and other facilities during the Gaza military campaign - including one reported to have killed more than 40 people, and demanded compensation. Ban Ki-moon also said a UN investigation found conclusively that Israeli weaponry, some containing white phosphorus, was “the indisputed cause” of attacks on several schools, a health clinic and the world body’s Gaza headquarters.

The first of 11 recommendations calls for the UN to seek “formal acknowledgment by the government of Israel that its public statements alleging that Palestinians fired” from within the UN’s school in Jabalia on January 6 and within the UN’s field office compound on January 15 “were untrue and are regretted.” Another says the UN should “take appropriate action to seek accountability and pursue claims to secure reparation or reimbursement for all expenses incurred and payment made by the United Nations” because of deaths and injuries involving UN personnel and property. Ban described the investigation as “completely independent” from his staff and denied the report was “watered down” in any way to please the US.

In one incident IDF soldiers ordered an 11-year-old boy to open Palestinians’ packages, so that the soldiers would not be hurt if they turned out to contain explosives, the report released on May 5 said. The child was then forced to walk in front of the soldiers when they came under fire, “the boy remained in front of the group,” the report said.

Also cited were “credible reports” that accused Hamas of using human shields and placing civilians at risk. But it singled out the Israelis for more sweeping criticism.

The report cited two alleged incidents from January 3, on one, it said, after a tank round struck near a house, a father and his two sons both younger than 11 emerged to look at the damage.

“As they exited their home, IDF soldiers shot and killed them, with the daughter witnessing,” the report said. In the second, it said, “Israeli soldiers entered a family house in the Zeitoun neighbuorhood of Gaza City. Standing at the doorstep, they asked the male head of the household to come out and shot him dead, without warning, while he was holding his ID, hands raised up in the air, and then started to fire indiscriminately and without warning into the room where the rest of the family was huddled together.

“The eldest son was shouting in vain the word ‘Children’ in Hebrew to warn the soldiers. The shooting did not stop until everyone was lying on the floor. The mother and four of the brothers, aged 2-12 years, had been wounded, one of them, aged 4, fatally.”

Of the 1,453 people estimated killed in the conflict, 1,440 were Palestinian, including 431 children and 114 women, the report said. The 13 Israelis killed included three civilians and six soldiers killed by Hamas, and four soldiers killed by friendly fire, it said. The report said the Israeli operation resulted in “a dramatic deterioration of the living conditions of the civilian population.” It cited “targeted and indiscriminate” attacks on hospitals and clinics, water and sewage treatment facilities, government buildings, utilities and farming and said the offensive “intensified the already catastrophic humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people.”

It said Israeli strikes damaged more than 200 schools and left more than 70,000 people homeless. “There are strong and credible reports of war crimes and other violations of international norms,” it said, adding that many observers have said war crimes investigations should be undertaken. “The alternative is de facto impunity,” it said. It called for the end of Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the free passage into the territory of food, medicine, fuel and construction supplies.

Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert spokesman, Mark Regev, called the report “another example of the one-sided and unfair attitude of the rapporteur of the Human Rights Council, a council that has been criticisd by current and previous secretaries-general for its unbalanced attitudes toward Israel.”

However, attempts to discredit the Human Rights Council were foiled earlier last month when Israeli soldiers confessed to Haaretz newspaper that Palestinian civilians were killed and Palestinian property intentionally destroyed during Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.
Another report issued from Physicians for Human Rights said the Gaza incursion violated IDF’s own code of ethics. The report by a Nobel Peace prize winning medical group, said IDF forces did not evacuate injured civilians for days and prevented Palestinian teams from reaching the wounded, and said some of them died as a result. It said 16 Palestinian medical personnel were killed by IDF fire and 25 were wounded during the IDF operation, and accused the IDF of attacking 34 medical centres in violation of the IDF’s own “ethical code for fighting terror.”

Speaking to The Muslim News, Human Rights Watch, and Jerusalem based spokesman Bill Van Esveld said, “We are very happy with the report. It is very credible.”

But he accentuated the report's short-coming in only assessing nine cases of damage to UN facilities and not examining violations of humanitarian law which caused the death of civilians by Israel. Van Esveld blasted Ban Ki-moon’s decision to reject any further inquiries which “undercut his own organisations inquiry.”

Daud Abdullah of the Palestinian Return Centre echoed Van Esveld’s sentiments saying there should have a “measure of accountability” in the report. He told The Muslim News the report did not mention or recognise or condemn the particular groups who “commissioned and who carried out these crimes.” He concluded, “The international mechanisms of justice should be activated” to address the issue more properly.

By Elham Asaad Buaras

Source >
  The Muslim News | May 29

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