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U.N. Finds Israel War Crimes in Gaza

Posted on Sep 15, 2009
Flickr / ISM Palestine

A U.N. fact-finding mission has concluded “there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity.”

The report also criticized Palestinian militants for firing rockets into Israel.

Israel refused to cooperate with investigators and, the U.N. said, denied them access to both Israel and the West Bank.

The U.N. said the blockade of Gaza has kept families living in rubble to this day and is part of a “continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population.”  —PS

Download the report here.  Read about it on the BBC / UN News / Haaretz.

United Nations Press Release:

UN Fact Finding Mission finds strong evidence
of war crimes and crimes against humanity
committed during the Gaza conflict;
calls for end to impunity

15 September 2009

NEW YORK / GENEVA – The UN Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone on Tuesday released its long-awaited report on the Gaza conflict, in which it concluded there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity.

The report also concludes there is also evidence that Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes, as well as possibly crimes against humanity, in their repeated launching of rockets and mortars into Southern Israel.

The four members of the Mission* were appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council in April with a mandate to “To investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

In compiling the 574-page report, which contains detailed analysis of 36 specific incidents in Gaza, as well as a number of others in the West Bank and Israel, the Mission conducted 188 individual interviews, reviewed more 10,000 pages of documentation, and viewed some 1,200 photographs, including satellite imagery, as well as 30 videos. The mission heard 38 testimonies during two separate public hearings held in Gaza and Geneva, which were webcast in their entirety. The decision to hear participants from Israel and the West Bank in Geneva rather than in situ was taken after Israel denied the Mission access to both locations. Israel also failed to respond to a comprehensive list of questions posed to it by the Mission. Palestinian authorities in both Gaza and the West Bank cooperated with the Mission.

The Mission found that, in the lead up to the Israeli military assault on Gaza, Israel imposed a blockade amounting to collective punishment and carried out a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip. During the Israeli military operation, code-named “Operation Cast Lead,” houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations and other public buildings were destroyed.

Families are still living amid the rubble of their former homes long after the attacks ended, as reconstruction has been impossible due to the continuing blockade. More than 1,400 people were killed during the military operation.

Significant trauma, both immediate and long-term, has been suffered by the population of Gaza. The Report notes signs of profound depression, insomnia and effects such as bed-wetting among children. The effects on children who witnessed killings and violence, who had thought they were facing death, and who lost family members would be long lasting, the Mission found, noting in its Report that some 30 per cent of children screened at UNRWA schools suffered mental health problems.

The report concludes that the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population, and in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population. The destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy which has made the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population.

The Report states that Israeli acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their rights to access a court of law and an effective remedy, could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, has been committed.

The report underlines that in most of the incidents investigated by it, and described in the report, loss of life and destruction caused by Israeli forces during the military operation was a result of disrespect for the fundamental principle of “distinction” in international humanitarian law that requires military forces to distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects at all times. The report states that “Taking into account the ability to plan, the means to execute plans with the most developed technology available, and statements by the Israeli military that almost no errors occurred, the Mission finds that the incidents and patterns of events considered in the report are the result of deliberate planning and policy decisions.”

For example, Chapter XI of the report describes a number of specific incidents in which Israeli forces launched “direct attacks against civilians with lethal outcome.” These are, it says, cases in which the facts indicate no justifiable military objective pursued by the attack and concludes they amount to war crimes. The incidents described include:

Attacks in the Samouni neighbourhood, in Zeitoun, south of Gaza City, including the shelling of a house where soldiers had forced Palestinian civilians to assemble;

Seven incidents concerning “the shooting of civilians while they were trying to leave their homes to walk to a safer place, waving white flags and, in some of the cases, following an injunction from the Israeli forces to do so;”

The targeting of a mosque at prayer time, resulting in the death of 15 people.

A number of other incidents the Report concludes may constitute war crimes include a direct and intentional attack on the Al Quds Hospital and an adjacent ambulance depot in Gaza City.

The Report also covers violations arising from Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank, including excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators, sometimes resulting in deaths, increased closures, restriction of movement and house demolitions. The detention of Palestinian Legislative Council members, the Report says, effectively paralyzed political life in the OPT.

The Mission found that through activities such as the interrogation of political activists and repression of criticism of its military actions, the Israeli Government contributed significantly to a political climate in which dissent was not tolerated.

The Fact-Finding Mission also found that the repeated acts of firing rockets and mortars into Southern Israel by Palestinian armed groups “constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity,” by failing to distinguish between military targets and the civilian population. “The launching of rockets and mortars which cannot be aimed with sufficient precisions at military targets breaches the fundamental principle of distinction,” the report says. “Where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into civilian areas, they constitute a deliberate attack against the civilian population.”

The Mission concludes that the rocket and mortars attacks “have caused terror in the affected communities of southern Israel,” as well as “loss of life and physical and mental injury to civilians and damage to private houses, religious buildings and property, thereby eroding the economic and cultural life of the affected communities and severely affecting the economic and social rights of the population.”

The Mission urges the Palestinian armed groups holding the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to release him on humanitarian grounds, and, pending his release, give him the full rights accorded to a prisoner of war under the Geneva Conventions including visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Report also notes serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial executions of Palestinians, by the authorities in Gaza and by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

The prolonged situation of impunity has created a justice crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that warrants action, the Report says. The Mission found the Government of Israel had not carried out any credible investigations into alleged violations. It recommended that the UN Security Council require Israel to report to it, within six months, on investigations and prosecutions it should carry out with regard to the violations identified in its Report. The Mission further recommends that the Security Council set up a body of independent experts to report to it on the progress of the Israeli investigations and prosecutions. If the experts’ reports do not indicate within six months that good faith, independent proceedings are taking place, the Security Council should refer the situation in Gaza to the ICC Prosecutor. The Mission recommends that the same independent expert body also report to the Security Council on proceedings undertaken by the relevant Gaza authorities with regard to crimes committed by the Palestinian side. As in the case of Israel, if within six months there are no good faith independent proceedings conforming to international standards in place, the Council should refer the situation to the ICC Prosecutor.

The full report can be found on the web page of the Fact Finding Mission:

For further media information: contact Doune Porter, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Tel: 1-917-367-3292 or +41-79-477-2576. Email:

* The members of the Fact Finding Mission are:
Justice Richard Goldstone, Head of Mission; former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa; former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
Professor Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science; member of the high-level fact-finding mission to Beit Hanoun (2008).
Ms. Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan; former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders; member of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (2004).
Colonel Desmond Travers, former Officer in Ireland’s Defence Forces; member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, September 17, 2009 at 3:38 pm Link to this comment

You want to read some real antisemitism and hatemail, read the comments.

Zionist vs Zionist, hilarious.

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Purple Girl's avatar

By Purple Girl, September 16, 2009 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment

Did the UN miss something??? Were they on drugs for the last several years?
How can they jump to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ of last winter and overlook 8 yrs of the Bush Admins War crimes and Crimes agaisnt Humanity? Even Worse CheneyCorps reign of terror over the last few decades??
I have no Doubt Israel committed heinous crimes- but come on Bush committed them over a longer period of time and in at least two countries!!
The US needs the UN to pursue Prosecutions against the Bushies as a means to open the door for US to prosecute them for Treason and abuse of Power!
Once they are indicted for these International crimes than their Repug co conspirators can not claim US prosecutions are ‘Partisan Witch hunts’- and we can nail them too for complicity. It took acts of Treason and Abuse of Power to committ these War crimes and Crimes against Humanity. But the state of affairs currently gripping this country require external motivation to expose and proceed.
Come on UN a lil’ help here!!

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By mike112769, September 16, 2009 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment

Seektruth: That really is all that needs to be said. Excellent post.

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By seektruth, September 16, 2009 at 10:31 am Link to this comment

Sadly, the news that Israel has once again committed war crimes has become a “dog bites man story”—in other words, no surprise.  Over the years, the American media (or most of it) and the country’s political leadership (or most of them) have carefully constructed a false truth that goes something like this: when innocents are killed by guys in kaffiyehs, it’s terrorism; when they are killed by men in uniforms with a Star of David patch on the shoulder, they are “collateral damage;” when angry men commandeer commercial airliners and destroy the World Trade Center, it is terrorism; when equally angry men order the raining of bombs on Iraq from taxpayer-supplied Stealth bombers, it is “a war for Iraqi freedom;” when religious fundamentalist Jews from New York, funded by wealthy Americans, confiscate Palestinian land and homes to build settlements, it is a “political problem” that needs to be solved by high-level negotiations between the U.S. and Israel; when Palestinian children throw rocks at those very settlers, they are termed “militants” and jailed, shot or killed by Israeli soldiers.

False truths have led us down a path of death, destruction and injustice.  Too many people accept false truths that make them feel good, or righteous, or justified in their hatred and intolerance of others.

Be assured, others hold false truths as well (denial of the Holocaust, for example), and act on these false truths.  But that does not justify our holding on to false truths that we have concocted. 

Look…perceive…be aware of things as they are, not as you may wish them to be. Be willing to face what is, even if makes you uncomfortable or ashamed or distressed.  Otherwise, we will never change.

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Robert's avatar

By Robert, September 16, 2009 at 6:58 am Link to this comment

UN inquiry finds Israel guilty of Gaza war crimes

15 Sept 09

“A United Nations report on Israel’s war on Gaza says war crimes were committed by both sides in the conflict.

But most of the criticism was directed at Israel’s conduct. Richard Goldstone, the judge leading the investigation, said Israel had used excessive force and deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians.

On behalf of the UN’s Human Rights Council, the investigators collected evidence, testimonies and even satellite imagery to get an idea of whether Israel or Palestinian factions were in breach of international humanitarian law.”

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Robert's avatar

By Robert, September 16, 2009 at 5:25 am Link to this comment

Israel grants immunity to soldiers over misdeeds

September 15, 2009

“The Israeli Knesset is working on a bill to grant more immunity to Israeli soldiers as the number of Palestinian lawsuits against the Israeli army hits a record high.

The bill—an amendment to the 1952 Civil Wrongs (Liability of the State) Law—says Israel is not civilly responsible for damages incurred during a military operation launched in a situation of war, providing a broader defense for soldiers’ actions in military operations.

Under the current law, soldiers must prove that their lives were in danger for their actions to be considered a military operation. But the new proposal calls for removal of the obligation on all Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and foreign countries since it assumes that the lives of soldiers operating outside Israel are inherently in danger, the Israeli publication, The Jerusalem Post, reported.

Another provision of the amendment allows the Israeli army to declare an area “hostile territory” whenever it likes, which absolves Tel Aviv of liability for damages sustained by residents of that area. Thus, whenever - and for as long as - a certain area of the West Bank, or the entire West Bank, is declared a “hostile territory”, Palestinians do not have the right to sue the Israeli army for the incidents that occurred.

The bill also deems Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians were killed and injured during a recent Israeli military offensive, a hostile area. Following the three-week war, hundreds of lawsuits were filled against misconduct of the Israeli troops.

The bill aims to decrease the number of Palestinian lawsuits against Israel. Palestinians have reportedly filed over 500 lawsuits against Israeli soldiers since 2000.”

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By ender, September 16, 2009 at 4:54 am Link to this comment

I’ve become convinced that terrorism is a tool of the ruling elite to prepare the world for the New World Order.  Our best friends are Israel, one of the worlds most active terrorist states, and Saudi Arabia, the nation that supports and turns out most of the Islamic terrorist leadership cadres.  The US, as leader of this plan is of course the nation that commits the most heinous terrorist acts, so whom else could we really ‘hang out with?’

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By Folktruther, September 15, 2009 at 11:38 pm Link to this comment

A step forward in in the world denying legitimacy to a racist state.  Hopefully in will strengthen the boycott, etc.  and reduce the legitmacy of American neozionists.  Putting pressure on the US to decrease its support of Israel.

Sharon took all the settlers out of Gaza to turn it into a ghetto-concentration camp. And then sent a military progrom thru;gh it to kill mostly women and children, destroying schools, churches, public builidings, and fifty thousand homes. 

And the starvation blockade continues, with the support of the US.  and the continued building of settlements with US support.  While pretending to support a two state solution.

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Ed Harges's avatar

By Ed Harges, September 15, 2009 at 6:15 pm Link to this comment

On a related thread, someone wrote:

“In its history Israel has received almost 114 billion dollars in US aid.”

But that figure’s correct if you count only the most direct expenditures. Since
anyone who has done adequate research must understand the very considerable
extent to which, for example, gigantic military operations such as the Iraq war were
undertaken for Israel (that war was politically inevitable only because Israel wanted
it, and therefore the “liberal” Democrats couldn’t stop it), one must add many more
hundreds of billions to the cost of our so-called “alliance” with this parasitic Holy

And then of course there are also things like US tax breaks which fund Israeli
settlements, but are not usually counted as “aid to Israel” — see the following:

“How US Tax Breaks Fund Israeli Settlers”


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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, September 15, 2009 at 6:14 pm Link to this comment

Invasion of the body snatchers.—Israeli-Organ-Harvesting.php

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