A United Nations fact-finding mission, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone and whose report was released on September 16, 2009, investigated the Israeli attack on Gaza that was launched on December 27, 2008. It found that Israel, "punished and terrorized" civilians in its three-week assault on Gaza . . . and cited strong evidence that Israeli forces committed "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions. The casualties included more than 1,400 Palestinians, about a third of them women and children, only thirteen Israelis died in the hostilities. The Goldstone Report
made a number of findings that were critical of both Israel and Hamas.
Here is The New York Times summary of the Goldstone Commission findings:
A United Nations fact-finding mission investigating the three-week war in Gaza last winter issued a highly critical report on Tuesday detailing what it called extensive evidence that both Israel and Palestinian militant groups took actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity.
While the long-anticipated, 575-page report condemned rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups against Israeli civilians, it reserved its harshest language for Israel's treatment of the civilian Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, both during the war and through the longer-term blockade of the territory.
The mission -- led by Richard Goldstone, a respected South African judge and once the lead war crimes prosecutor for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda -- did not attempt an exhaustive look at the war, instead focusing on 36 cases that it said constituted a representative sample. In 11 of these episodes, it said the Israeli military carried out direct attacks against civilians, including some in which civilians were shot "while they were trying to leave their homes to walk to a safer place, waving white flags."
In all but one of these civilian attacks, the report said, "the facts indicate no justifiable military objective" for them.
The report cited other possible crimes by the Israelis, including "wantonly" destroying food production, water and sewerage facilities; striking areas, in an effort to kill a small number of combatants, where significant numbers of civilians were gathered; using Palestinians as human shields; and detaining men, women and children in sand pits. It also called Israel's use of weapons like white phosphorus "systematically reckless," and called for banning it in urban areas.
On the Palestinian side, the report said that firing rockets that either deliberately were aimed at Israeli civilians or were so inaccurate as to risk hitting civilians caused widespread trauma and constituted a war crime. It also singled out Palestinian actions within Gaza, including killings and other abuse of members of the rival Fatah political movement as a "serious violation of human rights."
Here is an excerpts taken from the Report and published as part of the BBC summary of the Goldstone Report:
The Mission found that, in the lead up to the Israeli military assault on Gaza, Israel imposed a blockade amounting to collective punishment and carried out a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip. During the Israeli military operation, code-named "Operation Cast Lead," houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations and other public buildings were destroyed" More than 1,400 people were killed during the military operation"
The report underlines that in most of the incidents investigated by it, and described in the report, loss of life and destruction caused by Israeli forces during the military operation was a result of disrespect for the fundamental principle of "distinction" in international humanitarian law that requires military forces to distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects at all times"
[The ]report describes a number of specific incidents in which Israeli forces launched "direct attacks against civilians with lethal outcome." These are, it says, cases in which the facts indicate no justifiable military objective pursued by the attack and concludes they amount to war crimes"