In a new report published by Amnesty
International on July 2, 2009, under the title: "Operation 'Cast
Lead': 22 Days of Death and Destruction,"Amnesty International
provides the first comprehensive report to be published on the
conflict, which took place earlier this year, in which Israeli forces
killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians and destroyed
thousands of homes in Gaza. The Gaza attacks, claims Amnesty,
breached the laws of war, otherwise known as international
Donatella Rovera, who headed a field
research mission to Gaza and southern Israel during and after the
conflict said that "Israel's failure to properly investigate its
forces' conduct in Gaza, including war crimes, and its continuing
refusal to cooperate with the UN international independent
fact-finding mission headed by Richard Goldstone, is evidence of its
intention to avoid public scrutiny and accountability."
Donatella Rovera added, "the international community, led by the
UN Security Council, must use all its leverage to ensure that Israel
cooperates fully with the Goldstone inquiry, which now offers the
best means to establish the truth."
The Amnesty International report
documents Israel's use of battlefield weapons against a civilian
population trapped in Gaza, with no means of escape. The report is
based on evidence gathered by Amnesty International delegates,
including a military expert, during field research in January and
February. The report shows that Hamas and other Palestinian armed
groups fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel, killing three
Israeli civilians, injuring scores and driving thousands from their
homes. "Such unlawful attacks constitute war crimes and are
unacceptable," added Donatella Rovera.
In an Amnesty International release,
the organization indicates that the scale and intensity of the
attacks on Gaza were unprecedented. Some 300 children and hundreds of
other unarmed civilians who took no part in the conflict were among
the 1,400 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. Most were killed
with high-precision weapons, relying on surveillance drones which
have exceptionally good optics, allowing those observing to see their
targets in detail. Others were killed with imprecise weapons,
including artillery shells carrying white phosphorus not
previously used in Gaza - which should never be used in densely
Amnesty International found that the
victims of the attacks it investigated were not caught in the
crossfire during battles between Palestinian militants and Israeli
forces, nor were they shielding militants or other military objects.
Many were killed when their homes were bombed while they slept.
Others were sitting in their yard or hanging the laundry on the roof.
Children were struck while playing in their bedrooms or on the roof,
or near their homes. Paramedics and ambulances were repeatedly
attacked while attempting to rescue the wounded or recover the dead.
"The deaths of so many children and other civilians cannot be dismissed simply as 'collateral damage', as argued by Israel," said Donatella Rovera. "Many questions remain to be answered about these attacks and about the fact that the strikes continued unabated despite the rising civilian death toll."
More than 3,000 homes were destroyed
and some 20,000 damaged in Israeli attacks which reduced entire
neighborhoods of Gaza to rubble and left an already dire economic
situation in ruins. Much of the destruction was wanton and could not
be justified on grounds of "military necessity," the report
provides. The Israeli army has not responded to repeated requests
made by Amnesty International over the past five months for
information on specific cases detailed in the report, nor has the
Israeli army agreed to participate in meetings to discuss the
Donatella Rovera said "for its
part, Hamas has continued to justify the rocket attacks launched
daily by its fighters and by other Palestinian armed groups into
towns and villages in southern Israel during the 22-day conflict.
Though less lethal, these attacks, using unguided rockets which
cannot be directed at specific targets, violated international
humanitarian law and cannot be justified under any circumstance."
In addition to locally made Qassam rockets, Palestinian militants
often fired longer-range Grad-type rockets smuggled into Gaza via the
tunnels on the Egyptian border, which reached deeper into Israel and
placed many more Israeli civilians at risk. "Five months on,
neither side has shown any inclination to change its practices and
abide by international humanitarian law, raising the prospect that
civilians will again bear the brunt if fighting resumes," said
Under international law, states have a
responsibility to exercise universal jurisdiction and start criminal
investigations in national courts, wherever there is sufficient
evidence of war crimes or other crimes under international law, to
arrest and bring to justice alleged perpetrators. "Those
responsible for war crimes and other serious violations must not be
allowed to escape accountability and justice," said Donatella
Among other recommendations, the report calls on states to suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions to Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment will be used to commit serious violations of international law. It calls on Israel to commit not to carry out direct, indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks on civilians; or use artillery, mortars and white phosphorus weapons in densely populated areas; and to end its blockade on the Gaza Strip, which is collectively punishing the entire population. In addition, the report urges Hamas to renounce its policy of unlawful rocket attacks against civilian population centers in Israel and to prevent other armed groups from carrying out such attacks.