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Gaza Update: 300 Human Rights Groups Request War Crimes Prosecution of Israel

As outside observers enter Gaza, we’re learning more about what has happened during the Israeli attack.  What they are seeing is devastating – and is leading to accusations of Israeli war crimes. 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called for investigations and prosecutions during his tour of Gaza:

Standing in front of the UN compound during a visit to the shattered Palestinian territory, a visibly angry Mr Ban said that he was "heartbroken" by the devastation he witnessed and appalled by the Israeli attack on the UN facility.

"It is an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack on the United Nations," Mr Ban said, the warehouse still smouldering behind him.
"There must be a full investigation, a full explanation to make sure it never happens again. There should be accountability through a proper judiciary system.

"I have protested many times. I am today protesting again in the strongest terms. I have asked [for a] full investigation and [to] make those responsible people accountable.”   

AFP reports that "300 human rights groups" are "planning to submit a 37 page dossier" to the International Criminal Court on Wednesday.

International lawyers and jurists met Saturday in Geneva to finalise details of the dossier, which documents several violations against international human rights committed by the Israeli army during the Gaza offensive…

Even though Israel is not a state member, the group of jurists said the ICC could still prosecute individuals in the country.

… Venezuela and Bolivia are also interested in going to the ICC. As state members of the ICC, these countries can go one step further … by putting forward the charge against the Israeli authorities… Bolivia is preparing a request seeking to have Israel prosecuted by the ICC, two ministers said Friday in Geneva. The South American state says it wants to muster support among regional peers for a bid to have "the Israeli political and military leaders responsible for the offensive on the Gaza Strip" brought before justice, said Sacha Llorenti, whose portfolio covers civil society. 

Amnesty International reported Monday on the findings of a four-person fact-finding team who have just been allowed to Gaza. The team included a weapons expert who said: 

"Yesterday, we saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army…White phosphorus is a weapon intended to provide a smokescreen for troop movements on the battlefield. It is highly incendiary, air burst and its spread effect is such that it that should never be used on civilian areas".

And their conclusion is that the Israeli use in Gaza “is a war crime:”

"Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza’s densely populated residential neighbourhoods is inherently indiscriminate. Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

They reported that:

Among the places worst affected by the use of white phosphorus was the UNRWA compound in Gaza City, where Israeli forces fired three white phosphorus shells on 15 January.  The white phosphorus landed next to some fuel trucks and caused a large fire which destroyed tons of humanitarian aid.  Prior to this strike the compound had already been hit an hour earlier and the Israeli authorities had been informed by UNRWA officials and had given assurance that no further strikes would be launched on the compound.

In another incident on the same day a white phosphorus shell landed in the al-Quds hospital in Gaza City also causing a fire which forced hospital staff to evacuate the patients.

Amnesty’s team is blogging their experiences and you can read their reports here

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com