March 27, 2009

BBC: UN criticises Israelis over Gaza

Posted in General Gaza Updates tagged , , , , , , at 11:36 am by Alexia

 I wanted to make sure this wasn’t forgotten.

 UN human rights investigators have questioned the legality of Israel’s Gaza offensive in a wide-ranging report to the UN Human Rights Council.

One investigator, Richard Falk, asked how a military assault with modern weapons could have been made “against an essentially defenceless society”.

The report found civilians appeared to “have taken the brunt of the attacks” with schools and clinics also hit.

Israel has accused Council members of seeking to “demonise” it.

 

Many international organisations have raised concerns about possible war crimes during the three-week offensive, which ended on 18 January.

An Israeli rights group has also criticised Israel for hitting medics and impeding medical evacuations.

The Israeli military says it is investigating specific claims of abuses and argues that it did its utmost to protect civilians during a conflict in which militants operated from populated civilian areas.

‘One-sided’ fight

Because Mr Falk, a UN human rights investigator, was unable to enter the Palestinian territories, his latest findings focus on the legality of Israel’s January operation in Gaza in general, rather than on specific cases or claims that disproportionate force was used.

 

Mr Falk argued that in order to determine if the war was legal, it was necessary to assess whether Israeli forces could differentiate between civilian and military targets in Gaza.

“If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful, and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law,” he said in Geneva.

“The overall ratio of deaths, 1,434 on the Palestinian side, 13 on the Israeli side, is suggestive of the one-sidedness of the military encounter,” he added.

Gaza’s borders were closed, he stressed, so civilians were unable to flee the fighting.

Mr Falk called for an independent inquiry to examine possible war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas.

He also suggested that the Israeli blockade of Gaza was in violation of the Geneva Conventions and must be lifted.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN secretary general’s special representative for children and armed conflict, cited a long series of incidents to back her charges, in her report to the UN Human Rights Council.

In one, she said, Israeli soldiers shot a father after ordering him out of his house and then opened fire into the room where the rest of the family was sheltering, wounding the mother and three brothers and killing a fourth.

‘Demonising Israel’

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, Aharon Leshno Yar, said the report “wilfully” ignored and downplayed terrorist and other threats faced by Israel

The 43-page document was, he added, part of a pattern of “demonising Israel” in the Council.

Israeli authorities denied entry to Mr Falk last December, when he attempted to conduct his regular investigative mission to the Palestinian territories.

Israel was angered by a series of comments he had made accusing it of war crimes and comparing its actions in Gaza to Nazi Germany in World War II.

On Monday, the Israeli organisation Physicians for Human Rights released a report saying Israel had violated international law and ethics codes during the Gaza operation.

It accused Israeli forces of “attacks on medical personnel, damage to medical facilities and indiscriminate attacks on civilians not involved in the fighting”.

January 19, 2009

Israel Claims It Has Met It’s War Aims And The Result Is…

Posted in ! My Articles, General Gaza Updates tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:37 pm by Alexia

Israel called a ceasefire on Saturday, saying it had met its war aims

Anonymous Israeli officials, quoted by AP news agency, said the withdrawal would be completed before US President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday.

UN official John Ging said half a million people had been without water since the conflict began, and huge numbers of people were without power.

Four thousand homes are ruined and tens of thousands of people are homeless.

Unrwa was keen to reopen its schools, Mr Ging said, where 50,000 people were sheltering. Tens of thousands have been made homeless by the bombardment.

At least 1,300 Palestinians, according to Palestinian sources, and 13 Israelis have been killed since Israel launched its offensive on 27 December. Palestinian medical sources say at least 95 bodies have been pulled from the rubble since Israel halted its assault.

Some 400,000 Gazans still do not have running water.

During the Israeli attacks, about two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5m people were without power, the UN says.

Gaza’s only power plant shut down on 30 December because it ran out of fuel.

On 18 January the plant received 90,000 litres of fuel from the filling depot at Nahal Oz in southern Israel, says the UN.

Since then most Gazans have had intermittent electricity, although some households are still without power due to damage to the grid.

However, the plant is still short of fuel. It needs 450,000 litres of industrial fuel per day to produce its full capacity.

Although most main power lines have been repaired, two lines are still damaged in northern Gaza.

Since 18 January an extra 100,000 people received running water when the electricity supply was reconnected.

Some wells have been refilled and several NGOs, including Save the Children, have distributed drinking water in the Gaza Strip. The UN says supplies could be improved if workers are given safe passage to repair three damaged water mains.

One water main east of Khan Younis has been damaged, cutting supplies to 25,000 people.

Officials have confirmed that all two million litres of wastewater at Gaza City’s treatment plant, bombed on 10 January, leaked into surrounding agricultural land. Pumps at the plant are out of action due to lack of fuel.

A pump that sends sewage from Beit Hanoun to the Beit Lahia wastewater treatment plant is still damaged. According to officials, 30 cubic metres of sewage are flowing into the streets of Beit Hanoun every hour.

Unrwa says it is operating 50 emergency shelters for 50,896 displaced people in Gaza.

The shelters, many of them schools, are overcrowded with only basic levels of support, including food and water.

The shelters, especially those in the north, are in urgent need of non-food items and there is a shortage of more than 23,000 blankets and mattresses.

The UN says construction materials needed to repair and rebuild homes also need to be brought into Gaza.

So what were it’s aims?  To destroy the civillian infrastructure?  To make yet more people homeless, some for the fourth or more time?  To terrorise a population already under stress from the siege of the last 18 months?

Certainly to make all the people in the suburbs of Brazil and Yibna homeless and finally complete the sterile area they wanted between the people of Rafah and the wall they have built around them.

from:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7812295.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7836869.stm

here’s the current position of the Red Cross on the use of phosphorous weapons:  http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/weapons-interview-170109

If you wish to help, these are some of the aid agencies running appeals:

Save the Children Fund: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/32_7306.htm

Red Cross/Red Crescent: http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/palestine-update-180109?opendocument

Médecins Sans Frontières: http://www.msf.org.uk/articledetail.aspx?fId=a_paltry_response_20090108&gclid=COnu8qKGm5gCFQtOQgodOwlImg

Oxfam: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/oxfam_in_action/emergencies/gaza_crisis.html

UNICEF: https://www.unicef.org.uk/common/wp_donate/donform.asp?appealid=5E3782A9-F998-4B14-B49E-14CDC50C1710&thesource=palweb&google=palestine&gclid=CIXTx5-Gm5gCFQHilAod912TmA

January 16, 2009

PCHR Condemns IOF Use of Unidentified Incinerating Bombs Against Civilians, Causing Horrific Burns

Posted in ISM Updates tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 11:27 am by Alexia

 
14th January  2009
 
 
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) utterly condemns the mass killing of civilians by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) during its ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip. The current death toll stands at 983, including at least 673 civilians, of whom approximately 225 are children. In addition to the rising civilian death toll, the Centre is also gravely concerned about IOF use of unidentified incinerating bombs that are causing horrific burns to civilians across the Gaza Strip, and forcing doctors to perform amputations on some civilian victims. The Centre is demanding an immediate investigation into IOF use of these weapons by international health experts.  
 
Hospitals across the Gaza Strip have reported increasing numbers of civilians with serious burns being admitted for emergency treatment, and the scale of injuries indicates that IOF are using these unidentified incinerating bombs to target civilians across the Gaza Strip. For example, on 10 January, 2009, residents of Khuza’a village, east of Khan Yunis, reported being attacked by IOF artillery shells which exploded into flames, dispersing shrapnel and dense white smoke that caused skin burns, suffocation, spasms and fainting. At least one hundred local civilians were injured by this IOF attack, including medical personnel who arrived at the scene. Civilians were subsequently admitted to hospitals in Khan Yunis, suffering from breathing difficulties and severe pains in their eyes.
 
As part of its ongoing investigation into the constituents, and effects, of these unidentified IOF weapons, PCHR has interviewed Dr Nafez Abu Shaban, Head of the Burns Unit at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza city, the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip.
 
Dr Abu Shaban told the Centre: “We are now receiving patients with burns that are so extreme, the patients’ tissue and muscles have been destroyed. We have been forced to amputate some patients’ limbs as a result. We have carried out six double leg amputation operations on patients who had suffered critical burns of this nature. Three of the patients died after surgery.”
 
Dr Abu Shaban also told the Centre that some of the burn victims are suffering serious lacerations, and internal bleeding. “We do not fully understand why some of the injured are bleeding internally, because we can find no X-ray evidence of foreign objects inside their bodies” he said. “Our great concern is that we do not know the full consequences of these injuries. We can only presume the victims, who are all civilians, have been subjected to attack by chemical weapons.”
 
He also stated that, “Our patients [in the burns unit] ask us what exactly has happened to them, and we do not know what to tell them. I have never seen injuries like this before. We need international health organizations to send us medical specialists immediately who can assist us in responding to injuries from chemical weapons.”  
 
PCHR is gravely concerned that the IOF may be using white phosphorous against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip as part of its continuing military operation across Gaza. White phosphorus is a flammable chemical typically used in military operations for signalling, screening and incendiary purposes. When exposed to air, it spontaneously ignites and will continue to burn until either all the [white phosphorous] fragments are consumed, or the element itself is deprived of oxygen. White phosphorus can burn right down to the human bone. The chemical composition of this weapon – which causes extreme second and third degree chemical burn injuries – also makes it exceptionally difficult to treat.
 
The use of white phosphorous in densely populated areas violates customary international law provisions relating to the principle of distinction and the precautions necessary in attack. Customary international law explicitly requires that all feasible precautions in the choice of means and methods of warfare be taken, in order to avoid or minimize disproportionate injury or loss of life among the civilian population. It also requires that an attacker do everything possible to assess whether an attack may be expected to cause disproportionate loss of life or injury, and defines an indiscriminate attack as one which employs a method or means of combat, the effects of which cannot be limited as required by international humanitarian law. Indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and as such constitute war crimes. IOF use of white phosphorus in the current context would violate all of these principles.
 
PCHR notes that international law not only prohibits specific weapons, but also the manner in which these weapons are used, and the manner in which hostilities are conducted.

January 15, 2009

You’ve got to love the BBC and their “unbiased” reporting

Posted in ! My Articles tagged , , , , , , at 2:24 pm by Alexia

This has just been published on the BBC website.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7829912.stm
I’ll quote some salient points

Speaking to reporters on the Israel-Gaza border, Unrwa spokesman Christopher Gunness said three of the agency’s employees were hurt in the attack.
He said the compound was hit by what Unrwa believed to be three white phosphorus shells, which are incendiary weapons used as a smoke screen.

About 700 people were still sheltering in the compound, he said, and he was particularly concerned about the proximity of the fire to five full fuel tanks.
 
Asked whether he was sure the attack had been carried out by Israel, he said he was not aware of Hamas having access to white phosphorus.

This is despite calls for Israel to be charged with war crimes over its use of white phosphorous shells in Gaza.
There’s a reason why the UN person is so concerned:  http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/01/10/israel-stop-unlawful-use-white-phosphorus-gaza

However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza’s high population density, among the highest in the world.
“White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. “Israel should not use it in Gaza’s densely populated areas.”

This reminds me of the beginning of the occupation of Iraq when Rageh Omar was reporting from the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad and the US started shelling it.  The US were very well aware of the hotel being used by news agencies and I don’t think they’ve ever managed to come up with a convincing excuse.
But I digress.  Rageh was live on air when it started and he stated it was the americans doing the firing.  The presenter back in London refused to accept what Rageh said and insisted during the interview that he was wrong. 
Rageh no longer works for the BBC.  I don’t blame him.