MIDEAST: Israel May Face Charges for War Crimes
By Mel Frykberg
RAMALLAH, Jan 7 (IPS) - Israel has committed war crimes and should be
prosecuted in an international court, says Raji Sourani, head of the
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza.
"The repeated bombing of clearly marked civilian buildings, where civilians
were sheltering, crosses several red lines in regard to international law,"
Sourani told IPS.
Palestinian Authority (PA) delegate to Britain Professor Manuel Hassassian
has said the PA will launch legal proceedings against Israeli leaders it
says are responsible for war crimes in Gaza, according to a Palestinian news
Another 22 Palestinians were killed Wednesday morning in bombing and
shelling as Israel's Operation Cast Lead entered day 11. The dead included
four people killed in the shelling of a children's playground near a mosque
in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood of Gaza city.
Six Israelis were treated for shock as several rockets from Gaza hit Israel.
Hassassian's comment came in the wake of Israeli shelling of a UN school in
Jabaliya refugee camp Tuesday afternoon which killed over 40 Palestinians.
Several other UN schools in the Gaza Strip were also hit in the last few
days, resulting in a number of casualties.
The UN called for an investigation, stating that prior to the current
operation the Israelis were given the precise coordinates of all UN
institutions in Gaza.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has already condemned an
Israeli attack on two members of the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) last
week. The ICRC said the medics were wearing fluorescent jackets, their
ambulances were clearly marked, and their flashing lights were on.
Nihal Al-Akras, chairman of the Palestinian Health Care Committees, asked
the international community to pressure Israel to stop firing on medical
facilities and workers in the Gaza Strip.
Akhras's comments followed Tuesday's bombing of the Ad-Dura hospital in the
Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza city. Three mobile clinics provided by a Danish
NGO, DanChurchAid, were also destroyed.
"We've been able to help the wounded and suffering so far because our
vehicles have been present and ready inside Gaza. This possibility of
emergency aid is now in ruins," said Henrik Stubkjær, secretary general of
"We are deeply shocked that the Israeli air strikes directly prevent the
humanitarian aid effort," he added.
According to DanChurchAid the clinics were clearly marked with red crosses
and were parked in the Union of Healthcare headquarters.
"One Palestinian doctor and three medics have been killed during Israel's
bombing campaign which began on December 27," Sammy Hassan, spokesman for
Gaza's Shifa Hospital told IPS.
While Israel has denied that it deliberately targets civilians, reading
between the lines of reports in the Israeli media and admissions by military
leaders would suggest that the lives of Palestinian civilians are secondary
to saving Israeli soldiers.
Several senior Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) officers have admitted that the
IDF strategy is to use tremendous firepower on the ground to protect Israeli
soldiers during fighting in civilian areas, a senior officer explained to
journalists on Tuesday.
"For us, being cautious means being aggressive," said one officer. "From the
minute we entered, we've acted like we're at war. That creates enormous
damage on the ground.
"When we suspect that a Palestinian fighter is hiding in a house, we shoot
it with a missile and then with two tank shells, and then a bulldozer hits
the wall. It causes damage but it prevents the loss of life among soldiers."
The IDF suffered significant military casualties during the 2006 Lebanon
war, and the top brass realised that a repeat of this would erode public
morale and the country's political will. The Israeli cabinet took all this
into account prior to the ground operation into Gaza.
Additionally, limited global reaction -- due to the lack of international
media on the ground in Gaza following an Israeli ban -- to several of the
more serious incidents of civilian casualties has emboldened Israel to a
Even during the Lebanon War following similarly serious attacks by Israel on
Lebanese civilians, a ceasefire took weeks to be enforced.
However, Israel has not been completely immune from the world's outrage.
Following international pressure on the escalating humanitarian crisis,
Israel has agreed to establish a humanitarian corridor near Gaza city.
Israeli military operations will be halted for threehours every day to allow
humanitarian aid to reach Gaza's besieged population through this corridor.
"The idea is for the Israeli military to lay down its weapons every day from
1 pm to 4 pm starting today (Wednesday) in the area of the city of Gaza," an
Israeli source was quoted as saying.
Israeli leaders met in Tel Aviv Wednesday morning to discuss expanding the
ground offensive during a period when most of the aims of the operation have
been reached, according to a number of Israeli analysts.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defence
Minister Ehud Barak -- the war cabinet's troika – reportedly discussed an
even more intensive campaign in Gaza's towns and cities. Israel is hoping to
inflict as much damage as possible to Hamas's personnel and infrastructure.