Archive for UN

Israel says Gaza war was ‘necessary’ and ‘proportionate’

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

Date published: 31st July 2009

Source: BBC News

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An Israeli government report has said that the Israeli military campaign in Gaza earlier this year was “necessary and proportionate”.

The war and its conduct have been widely criticised, with Israel and Hamas accused of war crimes.

Palestinian sources say about 1,400 Gazans died in the conflict. Thirteen Israeli died.

The report said 100 inquiries had been launched into the conduct of soldiers and 14 criminal investigations opened.

According to the United Nations, the Israeli military campaign left more than 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties and 200 schools damaged or destroyed, as well as 39 mosques and two churches.

The UN Human Rights Council has appointed former South African judge Richard Goldstone to investigate whether war crimes were committed during the conflict.

Israel has declined to co-operate, accusing the UN Human Rights Council of bias against it.

Allegations persist against the Israeli military about killings of unarmed civilians, the use of civilians as human shields and indiscriminate destruction of property.

Israeli officials insist troops went to great lengths to protect civilians, that Hamas endangered non-combatants by firing from civilian areas and that homes and buildings were destroyed only when there was a specific military need to do so.

The conflict lasted for 22 days, ending on 18 January.

‘Incessant’ rockets

“Israel had both a right and an obligation to take military action against Hamas in Gaza to stop Hamas’ almost incessant rocket and mortar attacks,” the report, issued on Thursday, said.

It says 12,000 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel between 2000 and 2008 – nearly 3,000 in 2008 alone.

The report explains that damage caused to UN facilities by Israeli strikes should be blamed on Hamas, which Israel says set up rocket launchers nearby.

Allegations that dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed or wounded by white phosphorus shells are dismissed.

The report detailed steps aimed at limiting civilian casualties. It says 2.5 million leaflets were dropped and 165,000 phone calls made warning civilians to leave areas that would be targeted.

It also says that humanitarian aid was allowed into Gaza throughout the conflict.

Palestinians have said it was not safe to leave their homes to try to escape fighting and shelling, that they were unable to access the humanitarian aid.

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.


Israel says investigating 100 Gaza war complaints

Posted in Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, IDF, Operation Cast Lead, War crimes with tags , , , , , on 30/07/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 30th July 2009

Source: Reuters

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JERUSALEM, July 30 (Reuters) – Israel said Thursday it was investigating 100 complaints of misconduct by its forces in a Gaza offensive this year and admitted its troops had fired white phosphorous munitions but not in violation of international law.
A 163-page government statement issued in anticipation of a United Nations war crimes investigation headed for completion next month defended the 22-day as a “necessary and proportionate” response to Hamas rocket fire at Israel.
Some 1,400 Palestinians, many of them civilians, and 13 Israelis were killed in the Dec. 27-Jan. 18 operation and Israel has repeatedly rebuffed war crimes charges by several human rights groups.
In its report published by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Israel calls the war its response to shootings by Hamas Islamist militants in Gaza of 12,000 rockets over eight years alongside suicide bombings that killed 1,100 in Israel.
It restated Israel’s insistence it complied with international law in the 22-day campaign, adding it was “conducting comprehensive investigations” into 100 pending complaints after inquiries from U.N. and human rights groups.
Thirteen criminal files have also been opened, most involving allegations Israeli soldiers used civilians as human shields or perpetrated property damage, the report added.
Israel previously has said internal investigations by its armed forces had found no evidence of serious misconduct by troops in the Gaza fighting.
Israel also admitted outright for the first time in the report that its army had “used munitions containing white phosphorous” in Gaza, but denied violating international law, saying it had not fired such weapons inside populated areas.
Previously Israel had said it was investigating allegations that it fired weapons with phosphorous, which cause serious burns, without directly denying or confirming it had done so.
Israel has not cooperated with a United Nations probe headed by former chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone, accusing the organisation of bias against the Jewish state.
But the investigation due in August seemed a catalyst behind Israel’s report, in addition to charges published this month by 30 Israeli veterans saying they were encouraged to minimise their own casualties rather than avoid civilian deaths in Gaza.
“There are constant efforts to keep this issue on the agenda, and we reached the conclusion we should prepare a complete explanation so there would be a clear Israeli statement as to why we did what we did and how,” an Israeli ministry official said.

Gaza ‘war crimes’ hearing under way

Posted in Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, Israel, Operation Cast Lead, Siege, War crimes, West Bank with tags , , , , , , on 28/06/2009 by 3071km
Date published: 28th June 2009

Source: Al-Jazeera English

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The UN fact-finding mission will hold public hearings in Gaza and Geneva on the 22-day Israeli offensive

A public hearing organised by a UN team investigating alleged war crimes by Israel and Hamas during the Gaza war is under way.

As part of its investigations into the December 2008 – January 2009 Gaza conflict, the UN fact-finding mission will listen to testimony from victims of the conflict for two days in Gaza City and hold a second round of public hearings on July 6 and July 7 in Geneva.

During the Gaza hearing, which began on Sunday and is being screened live for the public and the media, the mission will hear from victims of alleged violations and from experts on the context and impact of the Israeli siege and military operations.

The public hearings, which are a part of the information-gathering work of the fact-finding mission, will enable victims, witnesses and experts from all sides in the conflict to speak directly to the international community.

In Geneva, the mission will hear from victims of alleged violations in Israel and the West Bank, as well as from experts on a variety of military and legal issues.

Geneva has been chosen as the venue of the second round of hearings since the fact-finding mission has so far not received permission to enter Israel to hold the sessions in southern Israel and the West Bank.

‘Hearings limited’

The public hearings were called for by Richard Goldstone, head of the 15-member team and previously a member of the South African constitutional court.He has also investigated war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

“The purpose of the public hearings in Gaza and Geneva is to show the faces and broadcast the voices of victims – all of the victims,” Goldstone said on Thursday, at the end of a four-day fact-finding trip to Gaza.
Goldstone also added that the public hearings in both Gaza and Geneva will augment the ongoing investigations of the fact-finding mission.

“The hearings are limited in time and scope”, he said.

“The fact that not all important incidents and events are the subject of the public hearings should in no way be interpreted as meaning that the other incidents are of lesser importance or of less concern to the mission”.

The hearings are only one aspect of the mission’s investigative work.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Gaza, said: “The aim of this mission, according to Goldstone, is to broadcast the voices and to show the faces of the victims.”This is not about compensation or legal recourse. What the victims want is an opportunity to tell the world what happened in the hope that people will remember their story and the killings of their loves ones will not go unnoticed,” she said.

The mission is due to complete a report with its findings in August.

Israeli offensive

Israel launched its 22-day offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the Gazan people on 27 December.

The operation killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, among them scores of children, according to Palestinian officials and human rights groups.

It also destroyed thousands of homes and heavily damaged Gaza’s infrastructure.

Gaza’s reconstruction is being hampered by Israel’s blockade of Gaza [EPA]

Israel claims the death toll was lower and most of the dead were Hamas fighters.Thirteen Israelis were also killed during the fighting.

Gaza’s reconstruction is being hampered by Israel’s blockade of Gaza which dates back to June 2007 when Hamas took control of the territory.

Since then, Israel and Egypt, which control Gaza’s only border crossing that bypasses Israel, have kept the territory of 1.5 million aid-dependent people sealed to all but essential humanitarian supplies.

Israel has insisted that the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from arming itself, but human rights groups say it is a collective punishment.

The fact-finding mission is mandated by the UN to investigate all violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations conducted in Gaza.

During the public hearings, witnesses and experts will speak about incidents and experiences regarding loss of life, attacks on physical integrity, destruction of industry and livelihood, and the effects of prolonged conflict on mental health, among others.

Racism, boycott and a big dose of hypocrisy

Posted in International community, International conferences, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , on 01/05/2009 by 3071km

Written by Isabelle Humphries

Date: 28 April 2009

Source: The Electronic Intifada

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Mainstream reports on the last UN Durban Review Conference on racism seem only to highlight Ahmadinejad’s discourse and its boycott by Western leaders. However, such reports dismiss the failure of the Conference on discussing racism and its causes.

In this article, Isabelle Humphries writes on the failure of the international community to tackle about Zionism, the different approaches towards boycott of Western leaders, and the hipocrisy of the international community when it comes to adressing Palestinian issues.

International activists seeking justice in Palestine call for a radical reflection on the overall framework of Zionism, which as an ideology prioritizes the rights of one racial group over another. While no one was expecting that the Durban Review Conference would adopt an apartheid analogy, in recent years many senior international figures have sharply criticized Israel’s systematic discrimination against the Palestinians. While Palestinians are as aware as any other occupied nation that UN resolutions do not necessarily lead to international action, nevertheless the document resulting from the Durban 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) was considered something of a landmark. Dismissed as “anti-Semitic” by the usual US-Israeli suspects, the declaration named Palestinians as specific victims of racism. Though it failed to mention the source of this racism, many civil society organizations saw Durban as a useful conceptual framework for combating the racism at the heart of the protracted plight of the Palestinians.

The Durban Review Conference held last week was initially intended to be a forum to evaluate the progress towards goals set eight years ago. But bullying tactics by certain European/North American states ensured that the draft Durban Review Conference declaration excluded any criticism of Israel. In the planning process original “offensive” statements such as those referring to “unlawful collective punishment” and “torture” were removed. Israel, Canada and the US — under both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama — had no intention of allowing a repeat of the language of 2001. All three boycotted the process from the start. Obama initially rejoined the planning stage but pulled out again.Despite the fiasco of the main event, a successful two-day conference sponsored by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) brought a group of international legal experts and activists together to examine and develop possibilities of using legal instruments to combat Israeli racism.

The hypocrisy of being told by European politicians and media that boycotts against Israel are either anti-Semitic or counter-productive, yet to be instructed that boycott of Ahmadinejad or even the whole UN racism conference is right and justifiable leaves anyone dedicated to justice fuming. That’s what I feel like — I can only imagine how Palestinians feel to be let down by the international community. Again.

Bil’in’s example: between suffering and resistance

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, History, International community, International conferences, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Non-violent resistance, Palestine, Pictures, Siege, War crimes, West Bank with tags , , , , , on 01/05/2009 by 3071km

Since February 2005, Bil’in has resisted against the Israeli occupation and the construction of the Wall. From the beginning, the village committee chose non-violent actions, which endowed Bil’in inhabitants with the image of pacific resistants. Numerous Palestinian and Israeli organizations, but also organizations from the entire world, have taken up the cause for this village. On a daily basis, Bil’in inhabitants need Israeli and international activists on the ground. Organizations from many countries are setting up “civil missions” in Palestine.

For more information please visit Bil’in’s village website.

A Palestinian village struggling to exist

Bil’in is a Palestinian village that is struggling to exist. It is fighting to safeguard its land, its olive trees, its resources… its liberty.

By annexing close to 60% of Bil’in land for Israeli settlements and the construction of Israel’s separation wall, the state of Israel is strangling the village. Every day it destroys a bit more, creating an open air prison for Bil’in’s inhabitants.

Supported by Israeli and international activists, Bil’in residents peacefully demonstrate every Friday in front of the “work-site of shame”. And every Friday the Israeli army responds with violence, both physically and psychologically.

Bil’in residents have continued to withstand these injustices despite the frequent night raids of Israeli soldiers in the town followed by an increasing number of arrests of inhabitants and of activists. But now, the army has toughened the oppression by systematically arresting members of the Bil’in committee in charge of organizing the non-violent resistance actions. The aim of the arrests is to discourage Bil’in residents and reduce their resistance to the occupation.

Bil’in, an example of the injustice inflicted on Palestine

It is important to realize that what is going on in Bil’in is emblematic of the situation in all of Palestine:

  • The occupation of Palestine by the Israeli armed forces was condemned by United Nations’ Resolution 242, and by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
  • The colonization of Palestinian lands, whether dubbed legal or illegal by Israel, was also condemned by UN Resolutions 242 and 338.
  • The construction of the Wall and annexation of lands to be converted into military zones are also condemned by the UN and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
  • According to the UN, the presence of armed forces on a foreign territory, which the village of Bil’in is experiencing, is an illicit situation punishable by an international military intervention (as in Kuwait in 1991), as well as being a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • Armed repression during the demonstrations in Bil’in, equally prohibited by all international courts and bodies, is a violation of human rights, and is also prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • All forms of collective punishments are punishable, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and are considered as war crimes by the UN.

Different uses (and abuses) of the word ‘racist’

Posted in Gaza, International community, International conferences, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, War crimes with tags , , , , , on 21/04/2009 by 3071km

Mahmound Ahmadinejad’s polemic speech in the UN Conference on racism and the reactions to it have silenced an important step forward of the international community. Indeed, more than 100 countries have agreed a 16-pages final declaration calling on the international community to combat intolerance, a document that has been described as an “historic outcome”.

Despite dropping a controversial phrase from his draft speech casting doubt on the Holocaust, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been the main character of the day for his definition of Zionism as racism. His remarks have pushed many Western representatives to leave the conference room and accuse him of racist and his words of inadmissible.

Below you can check Ahmadinejad’s draft speech and actual speech, but here you have some excerpts related to Palestine and Israel:

After the Second World War, by exploiting the holocaust and under the pretext of protecting the Jews they made a nation homeless with military expeditions and invasion. They transferred various groups of people from America, Europe and other countries to this land. They established a completely racist government in the occupied Palestinian territories. And in fact, under the pretext of making up for damages resulting from racism in Europe, they established the most aggressive, racist country in another territory, i.e. Palestine.

The Security Council endorsed this usurper regime and for 60 years constantly defended it and let it commit any kind of crime.

Worse than this is that some Western governments and America are committed to support genocidal racists while others condemn the bombardment of innocent human beings, the occupation of their land and the disasters that took place in Gaza. Even before they kept silent, not responding to all the crimes of that regime, and supported it.

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But dear friends, today the human society is facing a kind of racism which has an ugliness that has completely distorted the honour of mankind at the verge of the third millennium and it has made the global society shameful. The global Zionism is the complete symbol of racism, which with unreal reliance on religion has tried to misuse the religious beliefs of some unaware people and hide its ugly face. But what should be seriously considered are the goals of certain superpowers and those in possession of major interests in the world; those who try their best through economic power and political influence and wide media means, to lessen the crimes and ugliness of the nature of the Zionist regime. Here, the main issue is not ignorance and therefore, cultural movements on their own, are not sufficient to fight this evil phenomenon. But we should try to put an end to the misuse of international means by the Zionists and their supporters. And by respecting nations’ demands, we should motivate the united governments to eliminate this clear racism and step on the path of reforming international relations and mechanisms with courage.

Related links:

UN conference on racism draft outcome

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech –  BBC translation from a speech transcript supplied by the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Tehran, in Persian.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s draft speech – Different in some respects from the draft submitted previously by the Iranians to the UN.

World reactions to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech – Compiled by BBC