Posts Tagged ‘Israeli military’

Gaza is Sinking in a River of Blood: A Message from a Gazan to the World

January 13, 2009

by Mohammed Fares Al Majdalawi

I want to write about the suffering of my people and my family in these days of siege against the people of Gaza. 888 people have been killed and more than 3700 injured. The Red Cross has accused the Israeli military of repeatedly refusing to allow ambulances to go to Zeitoun area, so those who are injured become those who die; a premeditated and purposeful violation of human rights.

In my house we can’t get basic needs. No food. No bread. No fuel. No future. Yesterday, my father went to the bakery at 5 AM. He waited 5 hours to get one loaf of bread, which is not enough for my family because there are 11 of us. So today it was my turn. I went to all the bakeries — all were closed.

There is no safe place we can go. We cannot communicate with our relatives and friends — networks are down as missiles rain on our homes, mosques and even hospitals.

Our life is centered around the burials of those who have died, our martyrs, At night our camp, Jabalya Refugee Camp, is a ghost town, with no sounds other than those of Israeli military aircraft.

There is a horror in every minute and it is clear especially in the lives of children. For example, there were five sisters in one family killed from the Israeli occupation while they stayed in their home. But there are 800,000 other children in Gaza, all afraid, all waiting for someone or something to help them. They are caught in a prison that is becoming a concentration camp. Every day we sleep and open our eyes to the Israeli crimes of killing children and women and destroying civilians’ homes. My words are unable to convey my feelings about this life in Gaza.

I have two messages to the world, to those who claim they love peace and seek freedom.

Imagine your life consisting of no electricity, destroyed homes, the sounds and strikes of missiles, day and night, and the only hunger as great as that for food is the hunger for an end to this occupation and siege. Imagine it is not just you but your children and your family who tell you through their eyes and cries: “We are afraid of the missiles.” “We cannot sleep.” “We may never sleep again.” Imagine you are the dam and the river of blood has turned into a flash flood. How long could you stand it?

We wouldn’t have to stand it any longer if the world stood with us. If they demanded an end to the siege and the killings and demolition of houses for our children. If they demanded assistance reach the people through rallies and sit-ins.

Finally, I invite you to come to Gaza and see the Holocaust. Because despite the siege, the barriers, the killing of my people and homes, and the total destruction of our lives by the Israeli occupation, they can not and will not kill the will of our people for equality and justice.

Mohammed Al Majdawali is a university student, member of Al-Assria Children’s Library, and volunteer with Middle East Children’s Alliance. He lives in Jabalya Refugee Camp with his family and aspires to be a professional filmmaker.

To help MECA send more medical aid to Gaza for thousands of sick and injured people living under siege, www.mecaforpeace.org

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Demands grow for Gaza war crimes investigation

January 13, 2009

Gaza conflict, day 17: Israeli reservists join the fighting and Sderot residents send their children back to school, while conditions deteriorate in Gaza Link to this video

Israel is facing growing demands from senior UN officials and human rights groups for an international war crimes investigation in Gaza over allegations such as the “reckless and indiscriminate” shelling of residential areas and use of Palestinian families as human shields by soldiers.

With the death toll from the 17-day Israeli assault on Gaza climbing above 900, pressure is increasing for an independent inquiry into specific incidents, such as the shelling of a UN school turned refugee centre where about 40 people died, as well as the question of whether the military tactics used by Israel systematically breached humanitarian law.

The UN’s senior human rights body approved a resolution yesterday condemning the Israeli offensive for “massive violations of human rights”. A senior UN source said the body’s humanitarian agencies were compiling evidence of war crimes and passing it on to the “highest levels” to be used as seen fit.

Some human rights activists allege that the Israeli leadership gave an order to keep military casualties low no matter what cost to civilians. That strategy has directly contributed to one of the bloodiest Israeli assaults on the Palestinian territories, they say.

John Ging, head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said: “It’s about accountability [over] the issue of the appropriateness of the force used, the proportionality of the force used and the whole issue of duty of care of civilians.

“We don’t want to join any chorus of passing judgment but there should be an investigation of any and every incident where there are concerns there might have been violations in international law.”

The Israeli military are accused of:

• Using powerful shells in civilian areas which the army knew would cause large numbers of innocent casualties;

• Using banned weapons such as phosphorus bombs;

• Holding Palestinian families as human shields;

• Attacking medical facilities, including the killing of 12 ambulance men in marked vehicles;

• Killing large numbers of police who had no military role.

Israeli military actions prompted an unusual public rebuke from the International Red Cross after the army moved a Palestinian family into a building and shelled it, killing 30. The surviving children clung to the bodies of their dead mothers for four days while the army blocked rescuers from reaching the wounded.

Human Rights Watch has called on the UN security council to set up a commission of inquiry into alleged war crimes.

Two leading Israeli human rights organisations have separately written to the country’s attorney general demanding he investigate the allegations.

But critics remain sceptical that any such inquiry will take place, given that Israel has previously blocked similar attempts with the backing of the US.

Amnesty International says hitting residential streets with shells that send blast and shrapnel over a wide area constitutes “prima facie evidence of war crimes”.

“There has been reckless and disproportionate and in some cases indiscriminate use of force,” said Donatella Rovera, an Amnesty investigator in Israel. “There has been the use of weaponry that shouldn’t be used in densely populated areas because it’s known that it will cause civilian fatalities and casualties.

“They have extremely sophisticated missiles that can be guided to a moving car and they choose to use other weapons or decide to drop a bomb on a house knowing that there were women and children inside. These are very, very clear breaches of international law.”

Israel’s most prominent human rights organisation, B’Tselem, has written to the attorney general in Jerusalem, Meni Mazuz, asking him to investigate suspected crimes including how the military selects its targets and the killing of scores of policemen at a passing out parade.

“Many of the targets seem not to have been legitimate military targets as specified by international humanitarian law,” said Sarit Michaeli of B’Tselem.

Rovera has also collected evidence that the Israeli army holds Palestinian families prisoner in their own homes as human shields. “It’s standard practice for Israeli soldiers to go into a house, lock up the family in a room on the ground floor and use the rest of the house as a military base, as a sniper’s position. That is the absolute textbook case of human shields.

“It has been practised by the Israeli army for many years and they are doing it again in Gaza now,” she said.

While there are growing calls for an international investigation, the form it would take is less clear. The UN’s human rights council has the authority to investigate allegations of war crimes but Israel has blocked its previous attempts to do so. The UN security council could order an investigation, and even set up a war crimes tribunal, but that is likely to be vetoed by the US and probably Britain.

The international criminal court has no jurisdiction because Israel is not a signatory. The UN security council could refer the matter to the court but is unlikely to.

Benjamin Rutland, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said an international investigation of the army’s actions was not justified. “We have international lawyers at every level of the command whose job it is to authorise targeting decisions, rules of engagement … We don’t think we have breached international law in any of these instances,” he said.

ICRC Says Israel Broke International Law in Gaza

January 9, 2009

GENEVA – Relief workers found four starving children sitting next to their dead mothers and other corpses in a house in a part of Gaza City bombed by Israeli forces, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday.

[A Palestinian boy, who also holds Russian citizenship, sits atop a Red cross vehicle as he waits with his family to leave the Gaza Strip January 8, 2009. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)]A Palestinian boy, who also holds Russian citizenship, sits atop a Red cross vehicle as he waits with his family to leave the Gaza Strip January 8, 2009. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

The ICRC accused Israel of delaying ambulance access to the hit area and demanded it grant safe access for Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances to return to evacuate more wounded.”This is a shocking incident,” said Pierre Wettach, ICRC chief for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

“The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestinian Red Crescent to assist the wounded,” he said.

In unusually strong terms, the neutral agency said it believed Israel had breached international humanitarian law in the incident.

In a written response, the Israeli army said it works in coordination with international aid bodies assist civilians and that it “in no way intentionally targets civilians”.

The Israeli offensive launched in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Dec. 27 to end rocket attacks by Islamic militants has drawn increasing international criticism over mounting civilian casualties.

Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances and ICRC officials managed to reach several houses in the Zeitoun area of Gaza City on Wednesday after seeking access from Israeli military forces since last weekend, the ICRC statement said.

The rescue team “found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses”, the ICRC said.

“They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses,” it said.

In another house, the team found 15 survivors of Israeli shelling including several wounded, it said. Israeli soldiers posted some 80 meters (yards) away ordered the rescue team to leave the area which they refused to do, it said.

The ICRC said it had been informed that there were more wounded sheltering in other destroyed houses in the area.

“The ICRC believes that in this instance the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuated the wounded. It considers the delay in allowing rescue services access unacceptable,” it said.

In all, it evacuated 18 wounded and 12 others who were exhausted, including the children, by donkey cart. This was because large earth walls erected by the Israeli army had made it impossible to bring ambulances into the immediate area.

Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, warring parties are obliged to do everything possible to search for, collect and evacuate the wounded and sick without delay, it said.

Dominik Stillhart, ICRC deputy director of operations, declined to say explicitly whether the Israeli inaction constituted a war crime.

“Clearly, it is (for) the International Criminal Court — not for the ICRC — to say whether this is or is not a war crime,” he said, referring to the Hague tribunal.

Ambulances must be given “round-the-clock” access to the wounded throughout Gaza, Stillhart told a news briefing. “We cannot wait for the next suspension of hostilities for the wounded to be evacuated and brought to hospital.”

The Israeli army said any serious allegations would need to be investigated properly after a formal complaint was received, “within the constraints of the military operation taking place”. (Additional reporting by Adam Entous in Jerusalem) (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jonathan Lynn)

Israel rains fire on Gaza with phosphorus shells

January 5, 2009

December 5, 2008

Artillery shells explode above Gaza City

(Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli artillery shells explode with a chemical agent designed to create smokescreen for ground forces

Image :1 of 5

Opinion: Michael Lerner | Brown calls for ceasefire | Europe split on response | Comment: James Bone | Israel splits Gaza | Doctors overwhelmed | Analysis: Colonel Lior Lotan | Leading article

Israel is believed to be using controversial white phosphorus shells to screen its assault on the heavily populated Gaza Strip yesterday. The weapon, used by British and US forces in Iraq, can cause horrific burns but is not illegal if used as a smokescreen.

As the Israeli army stormed to the edges of Gaza City and the Palestinian death toll topped 500, the tell-tale shells could be seen spreading tentacles of thick white smoke to cover the troops’ advance. “These explosions are fantastic looking, and produce a great deal of smoke that blinds the enemy so that our forces can move in,” said one Israeli security expert. Burning blobs of phosphorus would cause severe injuries to anyone caught beneath them and force would-be snipers or operators of remote-controlled booby traps to take cover. Israel admitted using white phosphorus during its 2006 war with Lebanon.

The use of the weapon in the Gaza Strip, one of the world’s mostly densely population areas, is likely to ignite yet more controversy over Israel’s offensive, in which more than 2,300 Palestinians have been wounded.

The Geneva Treaty of 1980 stipulates that white phosphorus should not be used as a weapon of war in civilian areas, but there is no blanket ban under international law on its use as a smokescreen or for illumination. However, Charles Heyman, a military expert and former major in the British Army, said: “If white phosphorus was deliberately fired at a crowd of people someone would end up in The Hague. White phosphorus is also a terror weapon. The descending blobs of phosphorus will burn when in contact with skin.”

The Israeli military last night denied using phosphorus, but refused to say what had been deployed. “Israel uses munitions that are allowed for under international law,” said Captain Ishai David, spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces. “We are pressing ahead with the second stage of operations, entering troops in the Gaza Strip to seize areas from which rockets are being launched into Israel.”

The civilian toll in the first 24 hours of the ground offensive — launched after a week of bombardment from air, land and sea— was at least 64 dead. Among those killed were five members of a family who died when an Israeli tank shell hit their car and a paramedic who died when a tank blasted his ambulance. Doctors at Gaza City’s main hospital said many women and children were among the dead and wounded.

The Israeli army also suffered its first fatality of the offensive when one of its soldiers was killed by mortar fire. More than 30 soldiers were wounded by mortars, mines and sniper fire.

Israel has brushed aside calls for a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into the besieged territory, where medical supplies are running short.

With increasingly angry anti-Israeli protests spreading around the world, Gordon Brown described the violence in Gaza as “a dangerous moment”.

White phosphorus: the smoke-screen chemical that can burn to the bone

— White phosphorus bursts into a deep-yellow flame when it is exposed to oxygen, producing a thick white smoke

— It is used as a smokescreen or for incendiary devices, but can also be deployed as an anti-personnel flame compound capable of causing potentially fatal burns

— Phosphorus burns are almost always second or third-degree because the particles do not stop burning on contact with skin until they have entirely disappeared — it is not unknown for them to reach the bone

— Geneva conventions ban the use of phosphorus as an offensive weapon against civilians, but its use as a smokescreen is not prohibited by international law

— Israel previously used white phosphorus during its war with Lebanon in 2006

— It has been used frequently by British and US forces in recent wars, notably during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Its use was criticised widely

— White phosphorus has the slang name “Willy Pete”, which dates from the First World War. It was commonly used in the Vietnam era

Source: Times archives

Desmond Tutu: Israeli shelling in Gaza may be war crime

September 16, 2008

· Archbishop wants inquiry into Beit Hanoun attack
· 18 family members killed in ‘reckless’ artillery salvo

Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem|The Guardian,Tuesday September 16 2008

Desmond Tutu, the South African Nobel laureate, said yesterday there was a “possibility” Israel had committed a war crime when 18 Palestinians from a single family were killed by Israeli artillery shells in Gaza two years ago.

Tutu said the Israeli attack, which hit the Athamna family house, showed “a disproportionate and reckless disregard for Palestinian civilian life”.

The archbishop presented his comments in a final report to the UN Human Rights Council, which had sent him to Gaza to investigate the killings in Beit Hanoun in November 2006. For 18 months Israel did not grant the archbishop or his team a visa. They entered Gaza in May this year on a rare crossing from Egypt.

On the three-day visit, Tutu and his team visited the house, interviewed the survivors and met others in Gaza, including the senior Hamas figure and former prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh. At the time, Tutu said he wanted to travel to Israel to hear the Israeli account of events, but he was not permitted.

“In the absence of a well-founded explanation from the Israeli military – which is in sole possession of the relevant facts – the mission must conclude that there is a possibility that the shelling of Beit Hanoun constituted a war crime,” Tutu said in his report to the 47-member council.

Tutu also said that rockets fired by Palestinian militants into southern Israel should stop and should be investigated. “Those firing rockets on Israeli civilians are no less accountable than the Israeli military for their actions,” he said.

For the past three months a ceasefire between Israel and the militant groups in Gaza has been in place. It has significantly reduced the number of incidents and the death toll from the conflict there. Israel maintains a tough economic blockade on the territory, restricting imports and banning nearly all exports.

“It is not too late for an independent, impartial and transparent investigation of the shelling to be held,” Tutu said.

He said those responsible for firing the shells should be held accountable, whether the cause of the incident was a mistake or wilful.

After the incident, Israel’s military said the shelling into Beit Hanoun that day was a mistake and was the result of a “rare and severe failure in the artillery fire-control system” which created “incorrect range-findings”. It said the shells had been aimed 450 metres away from the edge of town. No legal action was taken against any officer. However, it is unclear why the artillery was fired so close to a residential area that morning and why shells continued to be fired after the first one hit the Athamna house.

Tutu also said he recommended that Israel pay adequate compensation to the victims “without delay”. His report said “reparation” should also be made to the town of Beit Hanoun itself, and suggested a memorial to the victims would also help the survivors. He suggested a physiotheraphy clinic as one possibility.

The survivors in the family remain bitter and most of the large extended family no longer live in the building. Since the shelling they have received no financial help, apart from a monthly stipend from the Palestinian Authority of £50 for each of the 18 dead.

Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, where the Human Rights Council was meeting, rejected Tutu’s report as “another regrettable product of the Human Rights Council”.

“It is regrettable that this mission took place at all,” he added.

Leshno-Yaar said the report gave de facto legitimacy to Hamas, the Islamist movement that won elections in 2006 and then seized full control of Gaza last year. “This does not serve the interests of Israel or the Palestinians or the cause of peace,” he said.

Torture As Official Israeli Policy

August 30, 2008

Stephen Lendman | ZNet, August 30, 2008

Stephen Lendman’s ZSpace Page

The UN Convention against Torture defines the practice as:

“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain and suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity….”

The US and Israel are the only two modern states that legally sanction torture. An earlier article covered America. This one deals with the Jewish state, but let there be no doubt:

Although its language in part is vague, contradictory and protects abusive practices, Section 277 of Israel’s 1977 Penal Law prohibits torture by providing criminal sanctions against its use. It specifically states in language similar to the UN Convention against Torture:

“A public servant who does one of the following is liable to imprisonment for three years: (1) uses or directs the use of force or violence against a person for the purpose of extorting from him or from anyone in whom he is interested a confession of an offense or information relating to an offense; (2) threatens any person, or directs any person to be threatened, with injury to his person or property or to the person or property of anyone in whom he is interested for the purpose of extorting from him a confession of an offense or any information relating to an offense.” However, Israel clearly discriminates against Palestinians, (including Israeli Arab citizens), denies them rights afforded only to Jews, and gets legal cover for it by its courts. More on that below.

Nonetheless, the Jewish state is a signatory to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and other international laws banning the practice. It’s thus accountable for any violations under them to all its citizens and persons it controls in the Occupied Territories.

US statutes leave no ambiguity on torture. Neither do international laws like The (1949) Third Geneva Convention’s Article 13 (on the Treatment of Prisoners of War). It states:

They “must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited….(these persons) must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation….”

Third Geneva’s Article 17 states:

“No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war” for any reasons whatsoever.

Third Geneva’s Article 87 states:

“Collective punishment for individual acts, corporal punishments, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty, are forbidden.

The (1949) Fourth Geneva Convention’s Article 27 (on the treatment of Civilian Persons in Time of War) states:

Protected persons “shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof….”

Fourth Geneva’s Articles 31 and 32 state:

“No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons.”

“This prohibition applies to….torture (and) to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.”

Fourth Geneva’s Article 147 calls “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment….grave breaches” under the Convention and are considered “war crimes.”

All four Geneva Conventions have a Common Article Three requiring all non-combatants, including “members of armed forces who laid down their arms,” to be treated humanely at all times.

The (1966) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 7 states:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Its Article 10 states:

” All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity….”

The (1984) UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is explicit in all its provisions. It prohibits torture and degrading treatment of all kinds against anyone for any purpose without exception.

Various other international laws affirm the same thing, including the UN Charter with respect to human rights, 1945 Nuremberg Charter on crimes of war and against humanity, the (1948) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the (1988) UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any form of Detention or Imprisonment, the UN (1955) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and (1990) UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. So does Article 5 of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Rome Statute with regard to crimes of war and against humanity. Torture is such a crime – the gravest of all after genocide.

Continued . . .


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