Archive for Civilian casualties

B’Tselem publishes complete fatality figures from Operation Cast Lead

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, IDF, International community, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 09/09/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 9th September 2009

Source: B’Tselem

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Today (Wed. Sept 9th) Israeli human rights group B’Tselem published its findings on the number of Palestinians and Israelis killed in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. According to B’Tselem’s research, Israeli security forces killed 1,387 Palestinians during the course of the three-week operation. Of these, 773 did not take part in the hostilities, including 320 minors and 109 women over the age of 18. Of those killed, 330 took part in the hostilities, and 248 were Palestinian police officers, most of whom were killed in aerial bombings of police stations on the first day of the operation. For 36 people, B’Tselem could not determine whether they participated in the hostilities or not.

Palestinians killed 9 Israelis during the operation: 3 civilians and one member of the security forces by rockets fired into southern Israel, and 5 soldiers in the Gaza Strip. Another 4 soldiers were killed by friendly fire.

B’Tselem’s figures, the result of months of meticulous investigation and cross-checks with numerous sources, sharply contradict those published by the Israeli military. Israel stated that 1,166 Palestinians were killed in the operation and that 60% of them were members of Hamas and other armed groups. According to the military, a total of 295 Palestinians who were “not involved” in the fighting were killed. As the military refused to provide B’Tselem its list of fatalities, a comparison of names was not possible. However, the blatant discrepancy between the numbers is intolerable. For example, the military claims that altogether 89 minors under the age of 16 died in the operation. However, B’Tselem visited homes and gathered death certificates, photos, and testimonies relating to all 252 children under 16, and has the details of 111 women over 16 killed.

Behind the dry statistics lie shocking individual stories. Whole families were killed; parents saw their children shot before their very eyes; relatives watched their loved ones bleed to death; and entire neighborhoods were obliterated.

The extremely heavy civilian casualties and the massive damage to civilian property require serious introspection on the part of Israeli society. B’Tselem recognizes the complexity of combat in a densely populated area against armed groups that do not hesitate to use illegal means and find refuge within the civilian population. However, illegal and immoral actions by these organizations cannot legitimize such extensive harm to civilians by a state committed to the rule of law.

The extent of civilian fatalities does not, in itself, prove that Israeli violated the laws of war. However, the figures must be considered within the context of the numerous testimonies given by soldiers and Palestinians during and after the operation, which raise grave concerns that Israel breached fundamental principles of international humanitarian law and caused excessive harm to civilians. The magnitude of this harm requires Israel to conduct an independent and credible investigation, and not make do with military debriefings. Shortly after the operation, B’Tselem published guidelines for such an investigation and sent the Judge Advocate General’s Office some twenty illustrative cases, in which a total of about 90 Palestinian civilians were killed, demanding that they be investigated.

B’Tselem’s list of fatalities in Operation Cast Lead has been sent to the IDF Spokesperson’s Office for comment.

Organizations that participated in the statement: The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Bimkom, B’Tselem, Gisha, Physicians for Human Rights, Adalah , Yesh Din, HaMoked,Center for the Defence of the Individual, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights

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The story of Amina

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, International community, Operation Cast Lead, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , on 25/08/2009 by 3071km

E-mail received: 25 August 2009

Source: International Movement to Open Rafah Border

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Amira Al Qarem (15) from Gaza, whose brother, sister and father have been killed during Operation Cast Lead, is determined to get justice and will file a complaint against Israel at the ICJ at The Hague (Netherlands) on August 31st, 2009.

Her story is emblematic of the attack on civilians during Operation Cast Lead in December and January, where 1400 Palestinians, including 300 children, were killed (according to the report by Amnesty International from 2 July 2009).

On 31 August, Amira Al Qarem will go personally to the International Criminal Court, to file the first complaint from a victim of the Israeli operation Cast Lead. She will be assisted by her lawyers and supported by her doctors.

There will be a press conference at The Hague on monday August 31st at 2 pm.

You can read her story here:

Date published: 25 February 2009

Source: Defence for Children International

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As of 7 February 2009, DCI-Palestine has confirmed the deaths of 304 children, and is investigating a further 96 reports of child fatalities. This means that as many as 400 children could have been killed in Operation Cast Lead.

On Wednesday, 14 January 2009, at around 5:00pm, 14-year-old Amira was on the first floor of her home in Tel al-Hawa in southern Gaza City. She was with her father, brother Ala (13) and sister Ismat (15) when Israeli tanks entered their neighbourhood: “We were very scared,” recalls Amira.

At approximately 6:30pm, Amira’s father, who is the muezzin (person who leads the call to prayer) for the mosque next door left the house to call the Isha (night) prayer. He quickly returned home, and shortly after put the children to bed amidst the sound of nearby shelling and gunfire.

Amira recounts that her father told her and her siblings that he was going to look out the front door of the house to see what is happening. “Sleep and do not be afraid,” he told them. The children fell asleep, but awoke screaming at the sound of a loud explosion just outside their house.

They jumped out of bed and ran to the front door of the house. Amira exited the house first and as she ran several metres beyond the front door, she recalls sensing that she had stepped on a person and froze where she stood. She looked behind her and saw her father lying on the ground and bleeding heavily by their front door. Amira and her siblings, Ala and Ismat, knelt down around their father as they screamed and cried in fear. “Please God, don’t let my father die” Amira repeated as she sat on the ground next to him.

Amira’s brother and sister told her to stay with their father while they went to get an ambulance. Her brother and sister had already run several metres when Amira heard the sound of another explosion. At that moment, she reports feeling her right leg divide into two parts. Amira screamed out in pain and her brother and sister ran back to help her. Amira’s brother tried to move her leg but could not. So Ala and Ismat set off again to find an ambulance, telling Amira not to be afraid. Amira watched them run down the street until they rounded a corner and moved out of sight. She could no longer see her siblings but she could hear their voices shouting, “Ambulance! Ambulance! Please help us.” Moments later, Amira heard the sound of yet another explosion and saw heavy smoke rising from the area where her siblings had gone. She could no longer hear their voices.

Amira sat by her father, pleading with him to wake up but he did not move. She grew afraid when she heard the sound of tanks approaching and crawled back inside her house through the front door. She convinced herself that her father would wake up and follow her inside so she deliberately left the front door open for him. Inside the house, she crawled to the balcony overlooking the street. Moments later, she heard yet another explosion and saw smoke rising from the area where her father was lying. When the smoke cleared, she saw that her father’s legs had been torn from his body. At this point she says, “I knew he was dead.” Exhausted, and numbed by the pain from her right leg, Amira fell asleep on the balcony, waking up to daylight the following morning (Thursday).

Cold and thirsty, Amira struggled into the kitchen to drink some water. As she pulled herself up to stand on her left leg, she fainted and fell to the ground. Amira regained consciousness some time later and was then able to pull herself up to the kitchen sink to drink water from the tap. Afterwards, she crawled outside to where her father’s body lay to retrieve his mobile phone from his pocket. She wanted to give the phone to her father’s cousin who lived about 500 metres away so he could inform her father’s contacts that he had been killed. She dragged herself to his house and knocked on the door, but no one answered.

Amira then covered herself with a nylon sack she found on the ground and with the leaves hanging from a nearby tree in order to stay warm. She remained in this location until the next morning, falling in and out of consciousness throughout the night. She recalls being afraid of the sound of barking dogs, tanks and shellfire. She reported saying to herself “My father will protect me,” each time she felt afraid.

By morning light (Friday), Amira saw that there was a hole in the wall surrounding the nearby house of a journalist she knew well because her older sister had befriended his daughter. Weak and dehydrated, Amira crawled through the hole into the garden and then inside the house in search of water. She found a room with many mattresses and blankets and also a bottle of water from which she drank.

“I crawled and grabbed the bottle of water and quickly began drinking. The water was delicious. I then slept on a mattress and covered myself with a blanket because I was very cold. I could see a helicopter from the shattered window of the room”.

“I slept and woke up several times. […] Once, I crawled into the bathroom and filled the bottle with water from the tap. While crawling back to the room, I saw a jar full of pickled olives thrown on the floor of the kitchen. For sure it was for stock purposes. We used to store pickled olives until they became edible for the year ahead. I grabbed the jar and tried to open it because I was starving, but I failed. I left it there and crawled back to the room. I lay down on the mattress and covered myself. I reckon it was Saturday. I slowly began drinking from the bottle. I did not want to waste water because I did not feel able to go back and fill it”.

More than 60 hours after her ordeal began, Amira was finally discovered when the journalist who owns the house returned and discovered her lying in the room. He had earlier evacuated his family to another location in fear of the imminent arrival of Israeli forces in the neighbourhood. When the journalist asked Amira how she arrived at his home, she responded, “I’m wounded uncle. I’m sorry I entered your house without your permission. I was hesitant to do so, but I did not know any place else to go. Please forgive me.”

Amira was rushed to Shifa Hospital where she underwent immediate surgery to fuse the shattered bones in her right leg. She suffered significant blood loss and required a blood transfusion as a life-saving measure. Four days later, Amira underwent further surgery to rehabilitate her leg.

Amira was placed under the care of a group of French doctors who wanted to send her to France for further treatment to ensure she does not suffer the loss of her lower limb. On 22 January and again on 23 January, Amira, accompanied by her aunt, was taken via ambulance to Rafah crossing to enter Egypt. Both times, they were denied entry by Egyptian officials who shouted abuse at them, accusing them of lying about the extent of Amira’s injury.

As of 5 February 2009, Amira is still in Gaza awaiting permission to enter Egypt via Rafah crossing in order to receive continuing medical treatment abroad. Efforts by delegations of international doctors are ongoing to coordinate and obtain the proper permits for her exit. Amira is exhibiting signs of psychological stress as a result of the trauma she experienced and further delays in her treatment will only set back her recovery.

The use of indiscriminate force in densely populated civilian areas is a violation of international law. All parties are bound by international legal obligations to distinguish between combatants and civilians and take all necessary precautions to minimise civilian casualties when conducting hostilities. All parties must respect the principle of proportionality and necessity when conducting and planning military operations. In the context of densely populated Gaza, military commanders must exercise even greater diligence to minimise harm to civilians. Israel’s use of heavy artillery and tanks in Gaza City’s neighbourhoods is a violation of international law as these weapons are by nature indiscriminate, striking at military and civilian objects without distinction as in the case of this family.

As the surviving victims of Operation Cast Lead struggle to cope in its aftermath, DCI-Palestine continues to call for:

– Unimpeded access for the provision of urgent humanitarian and medical assistance to the Gaza Strip;

– The immediate and permanent lifting of Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip to allow the free flow of people, goods and services in and out of the territory;

– An independent investigation into incidents involving civilian fatalities during Operation Cast Lead, and prompt prosecution in accordance with international law of those found responsible for ordering, planning and carrying out war crimes;

– The annulment of the upgrade of EU-Israel bi-lateral relations approved by the EU-Israel Association Council on 16 June 2008.

        For further information please go to the Gaza Under Attack page.

        Update: As of 25 February, Amira is out of the hospital and residing with relatives in Gaza City. After unsuccessful attempts to enter Egypt via Rafah crossing despite the best efforts by intermediaries, Amira’s injured leg began to exhibit signs of improvement and the risk of amputation was significantly reduced. She continues to receive medical care in Gaza City as she is no longer deemed a priority case for medical evacuation by the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Although she displays promising signs of physical recovery, the psychological stress from the trauma she endured are ever present.

        Israel defends conduct during Gaza war

        Posted in Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Operation Cast Lead, Pictures, Videos, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , on 01/08/2009 by 3071km

        Date published: 31st July 2009

        Source: Al Jazeera English

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        Israel has said it will investigate more than a hundred complaints of misconduct by its military during the Gaza war.

        But Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, who was in Gaza during the war, said a new government report was merely trying to absolve Israel of responsibility for its actions and falls far short of what is needed.

        Israel defends Gaza war

        Israel repeated claims that its use of white phosphorus was legal [AFP]

        The Israeli government has said that its war on the Gaza Strip earlier this year, that left up to 1,417 Palestinians dead, was “necessary and proportionate”.

        The government also said on Thursday that it was investigating about 100 complaints of misconduct by its forces during the three week war that began on December 27.

        “Israel had both a right and an obligation to take military action against Hamas in Gaza to stop Hamas’s almost incessant rocket and mortar attacks,” the report published by the foreign ministry said.

        The 163-page document was published ahead of a UN war crimes investigation that is due to be published in August and in the wake of accusations from human rights groups that Israeli forces committed war crimes and violated international law during the war.

        ‘Deliberate use of force’

        Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Jerusalem, said many see the report as a pre-emptive strike to defend the much criticised war.

        She said that the report follows testimonies from witnesses and human rights organisations about soldiers’ conduct during the offensive.

        “What we’ve seen in the past few months since the end of the war are various human rights reports from Amnesty International, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, as well as testimonies coming out from army soldiers themselves,” Tadros said.

        “What really ties all of these reports together is the idea that there was no proportionality and a deliberate use of force against the civilian population in Gaza.”

        Palestinian officials say 1,417 Palestinians, including 926 civilians, were killed during the 22-day assault which ended in January.

        Israel says that the number killed was considerably lower, and that only 295 of the dead were civilians. Ten Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting, while three Israeli civilians were killed in rocket attacks.

        The report details steps that the Israeli military says were taken to minimise civilian casualties in Gaza, while claiming that some such casualties were inevitable because Hamas fighters took up positions in crowded neighbourhoods.

        It cited the 2.5 million leaflets dropped on the territory and 165,000 phone calls to civilians warning them to leave targeted areas as evidence of the military’s efforts.

        The report said international law is violated only “when there is an intention to target civilians,” and Israel denied it had such an intention.

        “Under international law, Israel had every right to use military force to defend its civilians,” the report said.

        Independent inquiry urged

        John Ging, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, welcomed the Israeli report as an “acknowledgment that an investigation has to be done into what happened” during the conflict.

        Human rights groups have charged the Israeli army with violating international law during the war [AFP]

        But he told Al Jazeera that the process has taken “far too long” and added that “what we actually need is an independent investigation that is credible for both sides”.”The litmus test is that [any investigation] has to be credible to both sides. As is well documented, both sides have certain concerns and they have to be addressed.

        “We have to see the rule of international law applied and upheld, even-handedly, with the confidence of both populations.”

        The report also defended Israel’s controversial use of the chemical agent white phosphorus in the conflict, saying its use was in accordance with Israeli law.

        The Israeli army “used munitions containing white phosphorus” in Gaza, the government report said, but denied firing such weapons inside populated areas.

        International law permits the use of white phosphorus – which can cause severe burns – as an “obscurant” to cover troop movements and prevent enemies from using certain guided weapons.


        Israeli military says no war crimes committed in the Gaza offensive

        Posted in Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, IDF, Israel, Operation Cast Lead, War crimes with tags , , , on 01/04/2009 by 3071km

        Written by Helen Pidd

        Published 31st March 2009

        Source: The Guardian

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        Israeli soldiers cross back into Israel in the early morning after an offensive in the Gaza Strip in January. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/Reuters (Source: The Guardian)

        Israeli soldiers cross back into Israel in the early morning after an offensive in the Gaza Strip in January. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/Reuters (Source: The Guardian)

        The Israeli military has concluded that no war crimes were committed during its recent offensive in the Gaza Strip.

        Investigation declares Israeli soldiers’ confessions exaggerated stories of civilian casualties in Gaza.

        More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including more than 900 civilians, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which published a list of names of the dead. Israel has said the toll was lower, and the “vast majority” of the dead were militants. But it did not publish a list to support the assertion.

        In a joint statement, nine Israeli rights groups said the decision to close the investigation without bringing charges “only strengthens the need for the attorney general to allow for an independent nonpartisan investigative body to be established in order to look into all Israeli army activity” in Gaza.