Gaza July 2014
The army veterans’ organization has released a report called “Breaking the Silence” containing testimonies of 60 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and officers who fought during Operation Protective Edge last July and August. According to the group, the testimonies are indicative of a general principle that governed the entire military operation: minimum risk to the Israeli forces, even if it meant civilian casualties.
The rules of engagement basically established that “Anyone found in an IDF area, which the IDF had occupied, was not a civilian. That was the assumption,” one of the soldiers stated.
An armored infantry soldier reported that, at some point, it was understood that any home which Israeli forces entered and used would be destroyed afterward by large D9 bulldozers. “At no point until the end of the operation … did anyone tell us what the operational usefulness was in exposing [razing] the houses,” he said. “During a conversation, the unit commanders explained that it wasn’t an act of revenge. At a certain point we realized this was a trend. You leave a house and there’s no longer a house. The D9 comes and exposes [it].”
There were also several reports of shooting at civilians. A woman who was clearly unstable and no threat was reportedly ordered by the battalion commander to walk westward, toward an area where tanks were stationed. When the woman approached the tank force, she was machine-gunned to death.
The detailed testimonies in the report include other practices that some units adopted during Operation Protective Edge.
The full report is available here.
Mrs. Mary McGowan Davis, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry
Today, the President of the Human Rights Council (HRC), Ambassador Joachim Ruecker, met with the Commissioners of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict. At this meeting, the Commissioners submitted a letter requesting a deferral to June 2015 in order to have additional time to present their report that was originally awaited by the HRC on 23 March.
The request was justified on the grounds that additional information had been recently received and had to be weighed, but also on the necessary adjustments that followed the resignation of the Commission former chair.
by David Tolbert*
Gaza, August 2014
The world has plunged into a period of brutality, with impunity for the perpetrators of violence. Syria is suffering untold civilian casualties as a divided United Nations Security Council sits on the sidelines. Gaza was pummeled to dust yet again with the world watching on. Iraq is in flames, with no end in sight. Atrocities are mounting in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, which are also being swept by an epidemic of sexual violence. Even Europe is not immune: a civilian aircraft was shot down over a conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, and officials were prevented from investigating.
Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more than a decade after the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), shockingly little is being done to stop these abuses, and the prospects of the victims ever getting justice, let alone bringing the perpetrators to account, seem ever more remote.
For many years, the world seemed to be progressing toward greater recognition of human rights and demands for justice. As democracies emerged in Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, these issues assumed increasing importance. Although wars, conflicts, and atrocities continued, the global powers tried, and occasionally managed albeit chaotically and usually late to stop the killing. Continue reading
The International Criminal Court
Following Israels offensive in Gaza, Amnesty International is urging the UN Security Council, the Palestinian Authority and Israel to do everything within their power to enable the International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring to justice those responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the current and past Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
An International Criminal Court investigation is crucial to end the pervasive culture of impunity. All sides must push for the Court to investigate such crimes in order to halt the vicious cycle of violations and injustice once and for all, says Amnesty.
Amnesty asks the Security Council to take immediate steps to refer the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to the Prosecutor of the ICC. For Amnesty, the UN Security Council must not stand by yet again and bear witness to mounting atrocities. It must seize this moment to act decisively for justice.
Amnesty International is also calling on both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities to support a Security Council referral, and take other measures that would allow the ICC to step in and ensure their co-operation with the Court. Continue reading
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay
At an emergency debate held today at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the military actions in the Gaza Strip, saying that war crimes may have been committed and that not enough has been done to protect civilians.
“There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” Ms Pillay said.
She also condemned the indiscriminate attacks of the Hamas on Israel.
“The principles of distinction and precaution are clearly not being observed during such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups,” she told the UN Human Rights Council.
Despite her condemnation of Hamas attacks on Israel, Ms Pillay also views Israel’s actions in Gaza as disproportionate. Continue reading
Gaza city, July 2014 (c) EPA
Repeated bombing is devastating Gaza’s fragile water infrastructure, while the deaths of several municipal water technicians highlight the danger they face in carrying out vital maintenance.
“Water and electrical services are affected as a result of the current hostilities. If they do not stop, the question is not if but when an already beleaguered population will face an acute water crisis,” according to Jacques de Maio, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Israel and the occupied territories.
To make matters worse, the intensified fighting is preventing technicians from carrying out essential repairs. Following the deaths of several municipal water technicians over the past few days, Gaza’s water service provider has suspended all field operations until the safety of its staff can be guaranteed.
As a result, hundreds of thousands more people will soon find there is no water when they turn on the tap.
“Gaza’s water system has been deteriorating for years. The latest attacks are the last straw. Safe drinking water is becoming increasingly scarce in the Strip, just as temperatures are soaring. Water is becoming contaminated and sewage is overflowing, bringing a serious risk of disease,” said ICRC water and sanitation expert Guillaume Pierrehumbert. “In recent days, ICRC teams have helped the authorities conduct essential emergency repairs to water and sanitation infrastructure in Gaza, improving the situation for over 90,000 people, but bolder action is urgently required.”
Under international humanitarian law, the parties to a conflict must distinguish between military objectives and civilian objects and between combatants and civilians. They must also avoid harming civilians or civilian objects, and protect them from the effects of military operations. This includes protecting water technicians, water networks and electrical supply systems.