Recommend International Criminal Court Investigation
Update: Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has asked the U.S. for help in avoiding war crime charges.
Amnesty International just released a report stating:
An immediate investigation is needed into mounting evidence that the Israel Defense Forces launched apparently deliberate attacks against hospitals and health professionals in Gaza, which have left six medics dead, said Amnesty International as it released disturbing testimonies from doctors, nurses, and ambulance personnel working in the area.
“Even more alarming is the mounting evidence that the Israeli army has targeted health facilities or professionals. Such attacks are absolutely prohibited by international law and would amount to war crimes. They only add to the already compelling argument that the situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court.”
Human Rights Watch released a report this week headlined, “Gaza: Israeli Soldiers Shoot and Kill Fleeing Civilians“, stating:
Israeli forces in the southern Gaza town of Khuza’a fired on and killed civilians in apparent violation of the laws of war in several incidents between July 23 and 25, 2014. Deliberate attacks on civilians who are not participating in the fighting are war crimes.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that on July 25, a Red Crescent volunteer [the equivalent of the Red Cross] was mortally wounded in an Israeli attack in Khuza’a, and other volunteers who tried to rescue him were fired on. Under the laws of war, medical workers are civilians who may not be targeted for attack.
Human Rights Watch investigated several incidents between July 23 and 25 when, local residents said, Israeli forces opened fire on civilians trying to flee Khuza’a, but no Palestinian fighters were present at the time and no firefights were taking place.
“The horrors of war are bad enough for civilians even when all sides abide by the law,” [Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa director] said. “But it’s abhorrent that Israeli forces are making matters even worse by so blatantly violating the laws of war designed to spare civilians.”
Last month, Human Rights Watch documented that the types of weapons used by the Israeli military prove that the killing of civilians was intentional.
Human Rights Watch executive director (and former federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York) Kenneth Roth – said:
It was the subject of fairly relentless bombardment. Finally, after a couple of days, on July 23rd through July 25th, families slowly tried to leave Khuza’a for their larger city of Khan Younis nearby, hoping to find refuge there. And as you would do in a situation like this, they raised white flags. They did everything they could to make clear that they were not militants. But on several different occasions, Israeli forces shot at them and actually killed some among the people who were fleeing.
No matter how many times the Israeli military spokesmen scream, “Human shields! Human shields!” most of the people being killed in Gaza are being killed because Israel is paying insufficient care to saving civilian lives. There’s been case after case in which Israel has used the wrong weaponry or has shot at people with many civilians around. And these, in our view, are war crimes.
The only real recourse that we see is to the International Criminal Court.
[The Israeli soldiers] use, for example—The New York Times did an interesting study yesterday—heavy artillery, 155-millimeter artillery, which is utterly inappropriate in a densely populated area, because this kind of artillery is considered accurate if it lands anyplace within a 50-meter radius. You know, you can imagine there are a lot of civilians in that area. It has a fragmentation and blast effect of 300 meters. And nonetheless, Israel lets off barrages of these heavy artilleries. The New York Times documented that yesterday. Or they’ll bring in their air force and simply bomb, even though there are many, many civilians in these areas.
We’ve gone through this in the prior Gaza efforts. We went through it with the Hezbollah war. I actually, you know, after the Hezbollah war, went and briefed the senior Israeli lawyer for the military, describing many of these same problems, the fact that you can’t just issue a warning and assume that everybody left, in that case, is Hezbollah. So, you know, they are completely on notice. We’ve accused them of this in the past. They just keep repeating it. And it seems to be almost by design to try to make the people of Gaza pay a price because Hamas is ruling over them…. I mean, that’s a war crime logic, and Israel is oftentimes acting according to the same logic in Gaza.
An Israeli soldier explicitly confirmed:
Palestinian civilians killed during the Shuja’iyya massacre of July 20 were deliberately targeted ….
The unofficial reason was to enable the soldiers to take out their frustrations and pain at losing their fellow soldiers on the Palestinian refugees in the neighborhood. Under the pretext of the so-called ‘security threat,’ soldiers were directed to carry out a pre-planned attack of revenge on Palestinian civilians.”
An Israeli soldiers noted in 2012:
We had a commander in the unit who would just say in these words, … ‘I want bodies. That’s what I want.’
You’re not ranked by arrests — you’re ranked by the number of people you kill.
Wikipedia summarizes the findings of the 2009 UN report:
The report disputes Israel’s claim that the Gaza war would have been conducted as a response to rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, saying that at least in part the war was targeted against the “people of Gaza as a whole”. Intimidation against the population was seen as an aim of the war. The report also says that Israel’s military assault on Gaza was designed to “humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability”.
The report focused 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”. Talking to Bill Moyers Journal, Goldstone said that the committee chose 36 incidents that represented the highest death toll, where there seemed to be little or no military justification for what happened. According to the report, another alleged war crime committed by IDF include “wanton” destruction of food production, water and sewerage facilities; the report also asserts that some attacks, which were supposedly aimed to kill small number of combatants amidst significant numbers of civilians, were disproportionate.
The report concluded that Israel violated the Fourth Geneva Convention by targeting civilians, which it labeled “a grave breach”. It also claimed that the violations were “systematic and deliberate“, which placed the blame in the first place on those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw the operations.
And a prominent Jewish leader says that Israel intentionally massacred Palestinian civilians in 1948 in order to terrorize the population … and is still doing the same thing today.
Postscript: There is plenty of circumstantial evidence for targeting of civilians as well, in the form of calls for genocide and mass murder against Palestinians.
For example, the Times of Israel recently published a piece calling for genocide on the Palestinians.
And Andrew Sullivan notes:
What is one to make of the fact that the deputy speaker of the Knesset has called for ethnic cleansing in Gaza?
He’s not an obscure blogger for the Times of Israel. He is a luminary of the Likud – a man who got 23 percent of the vote in a contest for the Likud Party leadership. He was appointed to his current high position by Benjamin Netanyahu.
His strategic goal is to “turn Gaza into Jaffa, a flourishing Israeli city with a minimum number of hostile civilians.” (Modern Jaffa, of course, was built on the ethnic cleansing of most of its Palestinian inhabitants in 1948.)
In Israel, this theme is intensifying:
The statements of Ovadia Yosef, whose recent passing was met with flattering memorials both in Israel and the US, are legendary. The former Chief Rabbi of Israel and spiritual leader of many Middle Eastern Jews, said, among other things, that Palestinians “should perish from the world” and that “it is forbidden to be merciful to them”; of non-Jews in general, he declared that “Goyim were born only to serve us.” Despite comments like these, his funeral last October was the largest in the country’s history, with 800,000 Israelis attending. In the past month, Rabbi Noam Perel, head of Bnei Akiva, the largest Jewish religious youth group in the world, called for the mass-murder of Palestinians and for their foreskins to be scalped and brought back as trophies, alluding to an episode in the Book of Samuel; and a Jerusalem city councillor, in charge of security, encouraged a crowd to mimic the Biblical character of Phineas (Pinchas in Hebrew), who murdered a fellow Israelite and his Midianite lover for the “crime” of miscegenation…
One local chief rabbi ruled that bombing Palestinian civilians is permissible, while another, considered a “liberal” by Israeli standards, declared the assault on Gaza to be a holy war mandated by the Torah–one which must be merciless.
Today, the former head of Israel’s National Security Council, Giora Eiland, called for treating all Gazans, including women, as enemy combatants:
We are seeing now that despite the IDF’s impressive fighting, despite the absolute military supremacy, we are in a sort of “strategic tie.” What would have been the right thing to do? We should have declared war against the state of Gaza (rather than against the Hamas organization), and in a war as in a war.
And we are not merely talking about a hypothetical situation. The grotesque death toll from Gaza is a distillation of this mindset – revealing at best a chilling contempt for Arab life and at worst, with the shelling of schools and shelters, a policy of indiscriminate hatred and revenge. Yes, killing women and children in shelters is about as low as you can get in wartime. As the State Department, in a rare moment of public candor, noted, it is appalling and disgraceful.