From Gisha via email:
The Association for Civil Rights, Gisha, The Public Committee Against
Torture in Israel, Center for the Defense of the Individual, Yesh Din,
Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights are Israeli human rights organisations. They have presented the Goldstone team – the UN investigation into “all human rights and humanitarian law violations committed in the context of the conflict which took place between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009″ – with a grave report:
It is crucial to investigate alleged violations of law of war.
This week, seven Israeli human rights organizations presented their
report to the UN team investigating allegations of war crimes during
operation Cast Lead in Gaza, led by Richard Goldstone. The signatories
of the report – The Association for Civil Rights, Gisha, The Public
Committee Against Torture in Israel, The Center for the Defense of the
Individual, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in
Israel, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel – believe the Goldstone
Committeeâ€™s mission of seeking the truth is of critical importance,
partly due to Israel’s attorney general refusal of the signatoriesâ€™
request to order a local, independent, and impartial inquiry into the
The report presents the Goldstone Committee with detailed findings
concerning violations of laws of war that the Israel military
allegedly committed during its attack on the Gaza Strip, dubbed
Operation Cast Lead, which should be investigated, referring mainly to
policies of collective punishment used against the civilian population
of the Gaza Strip. The report mentions comprehensive Israeli assault
strategies that failed to discriminate between combatants and
civilians, wrongful damages caused to civilian government buildings to
promote political goals, attacks on medical rescue teams, damage to
infrastructures, holding detainees under conditions that conflict with
Israeli and international laws, and collective punishment. The authors
stressed that, acting as Israeli human rights organizations, it is
their duty to report on issues under Israel’s responsibility. At the
same time, they demanded that suspicions that Hamas also violated the
laws of war be investigated.
In the introduction of the report, the organizations stated that
conducting a reliable, thorough, and impartial investigation is an
essential tool for the protection of human rights and for extending
maximal protection to civilian populations in wartime. In view of
this, the organizations also asked the Israeli Government to cooperate
with the inquiry team. The organizations pointed out that the events
of Operation Cast Lead cannot be viewed independently of the closure
imposed on the Gaza Strip for almost two years before and since, and
thus asked the team to additionally review the policy of closing the
Gaza border passages before, during, and after the military operation.
Read the full report.
Main Points of the Document:
Background: Even before the military offensive started, the prolonged
closure policy that the State of Israel imposed on the Gaza Strip led
to a grave humanitarian crisis there. Ever since 1967, and as part of
the established policy, Gaza Strip’s civilian Palestinian systems –
including medical infrastructures and power plants – became totally
dependent on the State of Israel.
The Offensive Strategy: Public remarks made and the manner in which
the offensive was carried out give rise to suspicions that Israel
adopted a disproportionate assault strategy that mainly aimed at
hurting civilians and causing deliberate destruction, for the purpose
of deterrence and punishment, and not at specific military targets. If
this is the case, a heavy cloud of suspicion hangs over the legality
of the entire operation.
Protecting Civilians: The fact that initiated attacks hit targets
located within a civilian population, coupled with data concerning the
large number of civilian fatalities and casualties, gives rise to
serious suspicions of gross violations of international and
humanitarian laws by Israel. Many of the Gaza offensive casualties had
their limbs amputated and maimed (some 12-15% of the total wounds),
some of whom were injured by previously unknown weapon types.
Bombing Civilian Buildings and Institutions: Israel systematically
and methodically attacked civilian institutions, deviating from the
principle that bans attacks against civilian targets in an attempt to
attain political achievements: 68 government buildings were destroyed,
more than 4,000 residential houses were totally demolished, and some
17,000 were partly ruined, leaving tens of thousands homeless.
Damaging Health and Rescue Services: The Gaza health system nearly
collapsed. During the week’s fighting, local hospitals had to perform
while coping with erratic power supply, and with the fact that 16
medical crew members were killed and 25 were wounded while evacuating
casualties; in addition, 34 medical institutions and 29 ambulances
were damaged. The Israeli Army avoided – in advance, knowingly, and
deliberately – extending direct aid to the Palestinian casualties and
even prevented Palestinian rescue services from doing that.
Detainees: Palestinians who were captured in the Gaza Strip and
placed under detention there were kept under cruel conditions, as
soldiers and interrogators used violence against them. The detainees
were held in 2- to 3-meters deep ditches, exposed to the cold weather,
handcuffed, and often blindfolded. Some of those ditches were dug in
what clearly were combat zones, each holding some 70 individuals on
average. The army failed to carry out its duty to notify the
detainees’ families of their detention and location, and even failed
to report their whereabouts to external bodies.
Power, Water, and Sewage Infrastructures Crashed: Despite the fact
that the IDF had had precise information as to the location of every
water, power, and sewage facility in the Gaza Strip, Israel bombed
them and left the strip without its vital infrastructures. The Gaza
power plant was out of order for 12 out of the 21 days of fighting.
The strip received merely 25% of its required power consumption for
several days during the operation. Some 800,000 civilians were cut off
the supply of running water, and the shortage of power and cooking gas
seriously impaired on the supply of bread there.
The Crossings Issue and Rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip: Israel’s
control over the Gaza Strip border crossings before and during the
operation remains in effect, and the absolute closure imposed there
almost totally prevents the individuals’ freedom of movement and the
importation of goods. As long as Israel bans the introduction of
concrete, cement, and other materials needed for the Gaza Strip
rehabilitation, it would be impossible to make use of the billions of
dollars that the international community raised for the Gaza Strip
rehabilitation and reconstruction.