Two reports have been recently released by the fact-finding missions posted by the major international NGO, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) to the Gaza Strip and South Israel following the 22-day war that took place in the region between December 2008 and January 2009.
The Amnesty International investigation team arrived in the Gaza Strip during the last week of the incursions. The team, consisting also of military experts, spoke to families and visited bombing sites. The 117-page report ‘Israel/Gaza Strip: Operation “Cast Lead”: 22 days of death and destruction’ released a few days back, presenting the teams findings evinces that the scale and intensity of the attacks on Gaza were indeed unprecedented. Some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians who took no part in the conflict were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.
The HRW team also sent a delegation to the region following the attacks. The team’s 39-page report titled “Precisely Wrong” details six incidents resulting in 29 civilian deaths, among them eight children. It found that Israeli forces failed to take all feasible precautions to verify that these targets were combatants, as required by the laws of war, or that they failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians. Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have reported a total of 42 drone attacks that killed civilians, 87 in all, during the fighting in December 2008 and January 2009.The report is based on field research in Gaza, where HRW researchers interviewed victims and witnesses, examined attack sites, collected missile debris for testing, and reviewed medical records. The Israel Defense Forces turned down repeated Human Rights Watch requests for a meeting and did not respond to questions submitted in writing.
Donatella Rovera, heading the Amnesty International investigation team, notes the following with regard to the aftermath of what is the most devastating war to have ever taken place in the region: “Israel’s failure to properly investigate its forces’ conduct in Gaza, including war crimes, and its continuing refusal to cooperate with the UN international independent fact-finding mission headed by Richard Goldstone, is evidence of its intention to avoid public scrutiny and accountability… Months later the international community has failed spectacularly – there has been no investigation of war crimes, no justice, at best a trickle of human aid gets into Gaza and there is little prospect for reconstruction. What is needed is for the blockade of Gaza to be lifted, war crimes to be investigated and for those responsible to be brought to justice.”
The United Nations Fact Finding Commission on the Gaza Conflict (recalled in a previous post) entered the Gaza Strip from Egypt on June 2, 2009 after the Israeli government refused to admit its entrance through Israel. There has yet to be public notice of the substantive proceedings of the investigation to be initiated or the mechanisms of justice that are envisaged to be used. As the Commission continues to hear testimonies from victims, witnesses and different organizations and bodies in Amman throughout the past days, it is hoped that its investigation will provide the basis for the prosecution of those accountable for committing the prima facie war crimes, affording justice to the impalpable number of victims that will continue to suffer from the actions for many years to come. The full report on the findings of the Commission is expected to be released roundabout August 2009.