War crimes in Gaza
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The UN Commission appointed to investigate the Israeli attack on Gaza in July-August 2014, has published its report which strongly condemns the Israeli attacks on civilian targets which may have been war crimes. However, in a bid to 'balance' the findings of the Israeli atrocities, the report also holds Hamas committing war crimes during Israel's aggression on Gaza last summer.
The UN commission determined that the death and destruction carried out by Israel in Gaza were not isolated events but followed in an ever more brutal fashion the war crimes and atrocities of previous wars on Gaza and Lebanon. It was "concerned that impunity prevails across the board for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law allegedly committed by Israeli forces." It called on Israel to break with its "recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers responsible."
The report pointed out: "During the ground operations, the Israel Defense Forces used explosive weapons extensively in densely populated areas of Gaza." It adds that such use was "highly likely to constitute a violation of the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks. Such use may, depending on the circumstances, qualify as a direct attack against civilians, and may therefore amount to a war crime.
It also condemned the extrajudicial executions by Hamas of two dozen Palestinians accused of collaborating with the enemy as a war crime.
2,251 Palestinians were killed
In total, 2,251 Palestinians were killed, including 1,462 Palestinian civilians, among them 551 children, the report states. "The death toll alone speaks volumes," said the report. More than 11,000 Palestinians, including 3,540 women and 3,436 children, were injured with almost 10 percent suffering permanent disabilities.
Six civilians died in Israel and more than 60 Israeli soldiers died in fighting with the Palestinian resistance.
Israel carried out more than 6,000 airstrikes on Gaza last summer, the report states, including "targeted attacks on residential and other buildings."
But a key finding is that the mass destruction and killing inflicted by Israel, often amounting to war crimes, "may have constituted military tactics reflective of a broader policy, approved at least tacitly by decision-makers at the highest levels of the Government of Israel."
This finding provides an important basis for Palestinians to pursue Israeli leaders, not just their uniformed subordinates, and bring them to justice in international courts.
On the issue of the targeting of residential homes with precision weapons, the report examined 15 specific cases in which 216 people were killed, including 115 children and 50 women.
Addressing Palestinian tactics, the report said the "indiscriminate" use of rockets and mortars by armed Palestinian groups against civilians constituted violations of international humanitarian law. "The intent of some Palestinian armed groups to direct attacks against civilians is demonstrated by statements indicating that their intended targets were civilians or large population centers in Israel," the report said.
The Palestinians' "primary purpose of the rocket attacks was to spread terror among the civilian population, in violation of international humanitarian law," the report said.
The report also notes that the "majority of projectiles fired by Palestinian armed groups consisted of rockets that at best were equipped with only rudimentary guidance systems and in the vast majority of cases had none at all."
Pro-Israeli US jurist Mary McGowan Davis
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