Monday, March 9, 2009

Amnesty International calls Gaza destruction 'wanton'

Amnesty International said that Israeli forces engaged in “wanton destruction” in their recent military campaign in Gaza. At the center of Amnesty’s claims were the estimated 14,000 homes destroyed by Israeli forces during the campaign, something the human rights group says could be a war crime.

Israel admits that they destroyed many Palestinian homes in the fighting, but claims that “operational needs” dictated their destruction – for example, they say, the homes were booby trapped, or were being used by militants to fire on troops – making their destruction permissible under international law.

Amnesty International though casts doubt on the official Israeli explanation. Their in-depth investigation, which included statements from Israeli soldiers, found that many houses were destroyed after the area they were located was under Israeli control – which contradicts the argument that the houses were being used by militants. Amnesty also found that a preferred method for Israeli forces to destroy a house was by planting a mine beneath it, something that made the soldiers planting the mines more vulnerable to enemy fire, not less as the Israelis claimed.

In addition to homes, schools, mosques and police stations all appeared to have been deliberately targeted by the IDF during the conflict, their report found.

The BBC also did an in-depth piece into some of the weapons used by the Israelis during the conflict – another accusation from the international community is that Israel may have committed war crimes through their use of certain weapons in Gaza (like white phosphorous artillery rounds). The basic conclusion from the BBC piece is that while it is ‘legal’ to use the various weapons the IDF employed during the Gaza campaign, the legality of firing such weapons in a built-up, urban area packed with civilians is a far more murky issue. Under international law a military must take reasonable steps to prevent civilian casualties. But many of the weapons used by the Israelis are not precision instruments and spread destruction over a wide area, so using them in a crowded urban setting (and Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on Earth) almost insures there will civilian casualties, leaving open the question on whether Israel committed war crimes in Gaza.
Sphere: Related Content

No comments: