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Human rights group: Evidence points to Israeli war crimes in Gaza

The Israeli military likely commissioned war crimes and crimes against humanity during 2014’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’, a leading international human rights NGO has concluded.

The report by FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), a Paris-based body representing 178 global human rights organisations, comes shortly before Palestine’s ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which goes into effect tomorrow.

Trapped and Punished: The Gaza Civilian Population under Operation Protective Edge” is based on evidence collected by a FIDH fact-finding delegation to Gaza, composed of the Legal Advisor for the Belgian League for Human Rights and FIDH’s Permanent Representative to the EU.

According to FIDH, “the report compiles examples of indiscriminate and direct attacks against civilians and civilian objects, disproportionate to any concrete military advantage, as well as deliberate attacks targeting medical services, among other potential crimes.”

The delegation also investigated other violations of international law by Israel’s armed force, including “the refusal of access to humanitarian relief”, and “the targeting of…operational healthcare facilities and transport” as well as “life-sustaining civilian infrastructure.”

FIDH notes that Israeli “attacks on densely populated residential areas killed an exceptional number of civilians.” Around 60 percent of confirmed Palestinian fatalities “were a direct consequence of large-scale, deliberate and systematic military attacks against family homes”, states the report.

The report also tackles head on a number of the justifications or explanations offered by the Israeli military for the Palestinian civilian death toll, and finds them wanting. In particular, the Israeli policy of issuing ‘warnings’, either to an entire neighbourhood, or to a specific building, is condemned as both inadequate and itself criminal.

This report submits that Israel’s warning policy in Gaza during the summer of 2014 was not only ineffectively implemented, but was also conceived and applied so inconsistently that instead of protecting civilians, it was used to spread confusion and terror among the civilian population.

The FIDH delegation heard harrowing stories of relatives left behind “in the panic”, while those “with mobility difficulties found themselves simply having to sit and await death as those around them fled.” The ‘warnings’, therefore

failed to evidence a credible attempt to achieve the legitimate aim of civilian protection; rather, they suggest an intentional policy on the part of the Israeli State to forcibly displace and/or justify subsequent civilian death.

FIDH’s report comes as Palestine formally ratifies the Rome Statute of the ICC on 1 April. With that in mind, the human rights group has submitted the report to the ICC, and intentionally interpreted the evidence “through the framework of the Rome Statute.”

Thus “potential crimes” identified by FIDH are “qualified under ICC legal norms for individual criminal responsibility.”

FIDH makes it clear that last year’s assault is not even the whole story, noting how “attacks on goods and assets essential for the survival of the population and Gaza’s economy exhibit a systematic character and were perpetrated by Israel in full knowledge, forming part of state policy before Operation Protective Edge and reinforced thereafter.”

Commenting on the report, FIDH vice-president Shawan Jabbarin, urged the ICC to “move from a mere preliminary examination of the conflict to a full investigation.” The group’s president Karim Lahidji, meanwhile, said “impunity” would simply be “an invitation to commit further such crimes.”

It’s time for international justice to prevail over an unwilling national justice system.

Link to full report here.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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