March 27, 2009
I wanted to make sure this wasn’t forgotten.
UN criticises Israelis over Gaza
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.
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.
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 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.
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
January 16, 2009
January 15, 2009
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.
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.