UN, Amnesty Int., Human Rights Watch Call for War Crimes Investigation over Civilian Deaths
August 7, 2014
Dr. Mona El-Farra / CounterPunch & RT News
From a doctor on duty in Gaza: "We have gone through a lot in Gaza. But this is a new kind of war. Israel is committing new massacres every day. In the Red Crescent clinic we receive at least 200 patients a day. And we are not an emergency clinic. A lot of diseases are appearing in Gaza because of the Israeli destruction of the water systems, the electrical system and ongoing stress and fear from over three weeks of bombings. . . . 'It's raining bombs and shells.'"
"It's Raining Bombs and Shells":
A Doctor's Notes from Gaza
Dr. Mona El-Farra / CounterPunch
(July 31, 2014) -- I'm still alive. I don't know what this means, but I can say that most of the time I can still walk and do some work with people who need help. It all depends on my luck. And here, for people living in Gaza, luck means how close to you the bombs fall from Israel's tanks, planes, or warships. Some hours it's raining bombs. Americans say "It's raining cats and dogs." In the new Gaza idiom, we say "It's raining bombs and shells."
Today I started my day in the Red Crescent Society's medical center. The electricity has stopped, but the X-ray still functions, so we received many patients. Let me share with you some of what I saw.
First is the story of an unnamed child we called "Number 6." He was around three years and had identifying stickers on his arms saying "Unknown" and "Number 6." I was shocked and immediately asked the nurses and ambulance drivers, "What is his name?" I was told no one knew his name. They found him in a mass of destroyed houses and he was the only survivor in his family. He had a head injury and wounds on other parts of his body.
Immediately I asked, "Doesn't anyone remember where the house was?" They said that in the area where they found him, all the buildings were destroyed and the rubble was mixed up with each other and sometimes the children's bodies were thrown from one area to another. So they didn't know where he had lived.
And then I realized he's Number 6, and that means there were five other unknown children before him and many more children after him.
Second, there is the story of Reem Ahmad, six years old. Reem arrived in the X-ray unit also. She has a name and she used to have a family. She is the only survivor of her family. She lost her parents and brothers and sisters. She is injured in the head.
Third is the story of a fifty-two year old woman who arrived at our clinic with her son. Her son is a nurse and he was panicking. His mother had gone outside to her garden to take care of her plants. Some shrapnel hit her head and her son was crying like crazy and he said in very few words "We are a simple family staying in our home. This shrapnel flew all around the garden and hit my mom. I want my mom to live." This woman is named Buthaina el-Izraia.
Fourth is the story of my colleague Afaf Jabar, a nurse on our team. Afaf lost her daughter Leena, who was also a nurse, her two grandchildren and her daughter's husband when one bomb fell on their house in Bureij refugee camp.
We have gone through a lot in Gaza. But this is a new kind of war. Israel is committing new massacres every day. In the Red Crescent clinic we receive at least 200 patients a day. And we are not an emergency clinic. A lot of diseases are appearing in Gaza because of the Israeli destruction of the water systems, the electrical system and ongoing stress and fear from over three weeks of bombings. People are experiencing different illnesses: gastrointestinal problems, diarrhea, breathing and skin problems, and most of the patients are the most vulnerable of all, children.
We have a real crisis now. Thanks to your donations, we managed to get some medicine for several clinics and hospitals in Gaza and to distribute hygiene kits, milk, and food to more than 1000 families. But right now we are facing a lack of medicine. I want people to know this and contribute and support us and help us get the proper medicines and supplies so we can treat these people who are suffering. Please share my message about what I've seen in just this one day of the Israeli assault and also let your friends and family know how they can help us to buy more medicine.
This is what I can tell you about today and with luck, I will report more information to you tomorrow.
Dr. Mona El-Farra, Director of Gaza Projects, is a physician by training and a human rights and women's rights activist by practice in the occupied Gaza Strip.
HRW: Israel Targets Fleeing Palestinian Civilians
(August 5, 2014) -- Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed Israel in its latest report for targeting and killing Palestinian civilians who are seeking to flee the fighting, adding that IDF violated the laws of war.
HRW cited several witness accounts who managed to get out of the southern Gaza town of Khuza'a between July 23 and July 25, who described Israeli forces targeting Palestinians civilian fleeing to Khan Younis seeking shelter or medical help.
"Israeli forces in the southern Gaza town of Khuza'a fired on and killed civilians in apparent violation of the laws of war in several incidents between July 23 and 25," HRW said in the report. "Deliberate attacks on civilians who are not participating in the fighting are war crimes."
Khuza'a, which has a population of around 10,000 people, became a hot target in Israel's ground offensive on July 23.
The report acknowledges that Israel warned civilians to leave the area before the offensive began, but argued that residents' choice to stay did not make them "lawful targets."
"While the laws of war encourage 'advance, effective warnings' of attacks, the failure of civilians to abide by warnings does not make them lawful targets of attack -- for obvious reasons, since many people do not flee because of infirmity, fear, lack of a place to go, or any number of other reasons," according to the report.
"Warning families to flee fighting doesn't make them fair targets just because they're unable to do so, and deliberately attacking them is a war crime," Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said.
One instance on July 23 describes a man being critically injured as he was following Israeli orders and leaving a home that he was taking shelter. The man was walking out of the house with his hands in the air when he was shot in the jaw.
In another instance, Israeli soldiers targeted a group of men and children after they were released following questioning. Israeli forces shot at the group as they were making their way to Khan Younis, murdering one and injuring two others.
HRW notes that the civilians were not participating in the fighting.
The group received reports from those it interviewed that up to several hundred people could be "trapped and unable to leave Khuza'a."
"When will there be justice for the civilians in Khuza'a, who suffered shelling for days, then faced deadly attacks by Israeli soldiers after being ordered to leave the town?" Whitson asked.
The report also highlights the difficulty medical staff have reaching the injured civilians safely, citing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) case from July 25. One of the organization's volunteers died after being critically wounded as he was trying to help civilians in Khuza'a.
"The horrors of war are bad enough for civilians even when all sides abide by the law," Whitson said. "But it's abhorrent that Israeli forces are making matters even worse by so blatantly violating the laws of war designed to spare civilians."
Meanwhile on Monday, UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) condemned an Israeli missile strike near an UNRWA shelter in Rafah that killed nine people Sunday, including five children.
UNRWA also reported that according to preliminary investigations five of its emergency shelters have been targets of IDF air strikes. One of the shelters was hit twice.
The death toll in Gaza has hit over 1,800 since Israel launched its operation Protective Edge on July 8, while Israel has been under international pressure to deescalate the situation.
At the same time US President Barack Obama on Monday signed a bill pledging $225 million to Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. The House passed the bill earlier on Friday night.
The money will be used to replenish Israel's defense system, which the Israeli Defense Forces say has been intercepting incoming rockets or mortars from Gaza with a 90 percent success rate.
In the latest attempt to cease the violence, Israel and the Palestinian factions have accepted a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza starting Tuesday morning, according to diplomatic sources cited by Reuters.
Palestine Pushing for Hague Court Probe into Israeli 'War Crimes' in Gaza
(August 5, 2014) -- Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki has said that Israel must be prosecuted at The Hague court for war crimes it committed during the offensive in Gaza, and that Palestinian authorities are planning to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).
"We must do everything in our power to enable the ICC to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes," Malki said on Tuesday after meetings with the court's prosecutors, Reuters cited.
The minister's visit to The Hague-based court comes soon after the beginning of an Egypt-mediated truce between Israel and the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning. The 72-hour ceasefire was agreed amid mounting global pressure to end the bloody conflict.
Throughout the fighting, which has been continuing for nearly a month, Israel and Hamas have blamed each other for violating international law. The Palestinians accuse the Israeli Defense Force of targeting densely-populated areas resulting in a heavy civilian death toll, while the Israelis hit back saying Hamas was using its people as a human shield to protect fighters.
Palestine is going to seek formal membership of the ICC, which is required for the court to get jurisdiction over alleged crimes in the territories.
"Everything that has happened in the last 28 days is clear evidence of war crimes committed by Israel, amounting to crimes against humanity," Malki told reporters in The Hague. "There is no difficulty for us to show or build the case. Evidence is there . . . Israel is in clear violation of international law," the minister added.
Israel, also not a member of the ICC, has declined to comment publicly on the matter. However, a senior official told Reuters that Israel would file a counter-suit against the Palestinians in response to any ICC legal action against Israel over the Gaza conflict.
Since neither of the conflicting sides are members of the ICC, the court would have no jurisdiction over Gaza unless this is granted in a UN Security Council resolution.
In July, the United Nations launched an international inquiry into alleged human rights violations and crimes by Israel during its military offensive in Gaza.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said house demolitions and the killing of children raised the "strong possibility" that Israel was violating international law. She cited cases of Israeli air strikes and shelling hitting houses and hospitals in the coastal enclave: "These are just a few examples where there seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes."
By joining the ICC, the Palestinian territories would open themselves up to possible probes into crimes within their borders, as well as being able to grant jurisdiction to investigate crimes dating back to July 1, 2002.
"If it entails action committed by Palestinian groups (against Israelis) then we are ready to accept that," Malki said. "But nothing compares to the atrocities, the carnage, committed by Israel," the minister added.
In a statement to the UN Security Council, rights watchdog Amnesty International urged the Palestinian Authority and Israel to do everything within their power to enable the ICC to bring to justice those responsible for committing war crimes, and crimes against humanity in the current and past Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
"An International Criminal Court investigation is crucial to end the pervasive culture of impunity. All sides must push for the Court to investigate such crimes in order to halt the vicious cycle of violations and injustice once and for all," Salil Shetty, the rights group head, said, as cited on Amnesty International's website.
"The UN Security Council must not stand by yet again and bear witness to mounting atrocities. It must seize this moment to act decisively for justice," Shetty added.
According to Gaza officials, the number of Palestinians killed in the offensive has exceeded 1,800 -- the majority of the casualties are civilians. Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians.
'Committing a War Crime':
HRW Calls for Israel to Stop Shooting at Gaza Civilians
(April 25, 2014) -- Human Rights Watch has called for Israel’s militia to stop shooting at Palestine civilians in Gaza, citing the shooting of civilians including a disabled woman and a high school student having a picnic. There have been 4 deaths and some 60 injuries since the beginning of this year based on UN statistics.
"Month after month, Israeli forces have wounded and killed unarmed Palestinians who did nothing but cross an invisible, shifting line that Israel has drawn inside Gaza's perimeter," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch in a statement published on the organization’s website. "It's appalling that soldiers have shot men, women, and children apparently for simply crossing a line," Whitson said.
UN Must Urgently Investigate War Crimes
In Israeli-Gaza Conflict -- Amnesty Intl
(July 12, 2014) -- Amnesty International (AI) has urged the UN to urgently mandate an independent international investigation into Israeli airstrikes on Gaza as well as Palestine's indiscriminate shelling of Israel, and hold accountable those responsible for war crimes.
Despite claims by Israel that its operation "Protective Edge," launched June 8, targets Hamas militants, most of more than a hundred Palestinians killed in airstrikes on Gaza are civilians, Amnesty says, adding that at least 24 children and 16 women were among the casualties.
Simultaneously, at least 20 people in Israel have been wounded by rocket attacks from Palestinian territories, according to the human rights watchdog, calling on the UN to set up a "fact-finding mission to Gaza and Israel to investigate violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict."
Israel May Be Guilty of War Crimes -- UN Human Rights Chief
(July 25, 2014) -- Israel maybe committing war crimes in Gaza, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says. Speaking in Geneva, Navi Pillay said house demolitions and the killing of children raise the "strong possibility" that Israel is violating international law.
Opening an emergency debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, she citied cases of Israeli air strikes and shelling hitting houses and hospitals in the coastal enclave: "These are just a few examples where there seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes," she said.
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