Wednesday, September 16, 2009
UN inquiry finds Israel guilty of Gaza war crimes
Israel "punished and terrorised" civilians in Gaza in a disproportionate attack in its three-week offensive on the territory earlier this year, a United Nations report has found.
Judge Richard Goldstone, who led the inquiry, said on Wednesday that he found evidence Israel targeted civilians and used excessive force in the assault, which was launched on December 27, 2008.
"The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly in some respects crimes against humanity, were committed by the Israel Defence Force," Goldstone, a former South African justice, said.
More than 1,400 Palestinians - about a third of them women and children - were killed in the offensive. Thirteen Israeli died during the same period, mostly due to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip .
The US state department reacted to the report, telling Al Jazeera that they had "concerns about some of the report's recommendations", without giving specifics.
Washington said that the mandate given for the report had been "one sided and unacceptable" but that Goldstone had attempted to broaden the scope of the report "to cover abuses on all sides of the conflict".
Goldstone's report, which came at the end of a six-month inquiry and will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council later this month, said Israel deliberately attacked civilians, failed to take precautions to minimise loss of civilian life and cited strong evidence that Israeli forces committed "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions.
He said: "In the months since the end of the war, various rights groups both domestic and international have provided evidence of Israel’s war crimes."
Goldstone said the evidence included accounts of "the shooting of civilians holding white flags ... the deliberate and unjustifiable targeting of UN shelters ... and the killing of over 300 children whilst the Israeli Army had at their disposal the most precise weaponry in the world"
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies